Campaign Review: The verdict on the Government’s COVID-19 education campaign

Mumbrella invites the industry’s creatives and strategists to offer their views on the latest ad campaigns. This week, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne's Mike Ronkoske and Ogilvy's Gavin McLeod weigh in on the Government's COVID-19 education campaign, Sportsbet's Elite Average Games, Billy's introduction to Billy, and St George's epic chase.

Brand: Australian Government Department of Health
Campaign: COVID-19 education campaign
Agency: Carbon Creative
The verdict: Lacks the cut through and urgent messaging required

Phase One

Phase Two

Mike Ronkoske, senior strategist at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, says:

“In the first phase, each ad is packed to the gills with a litany of rationale steps to perform. These steps come across as mild suggestions that could be easily missed or ignored. Comparing coronavirus to the flu may have created a false equivalency and stoked complacency.

“Why? Why should I care? What is the big deal?

“There is no sense of urgency. No acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation. There was a failure to level with the public to save lives.

“A laser-sharp focus on the severity of the situation would have been my steer. Coronavirus is a different beast — an aggressive, lethal virus with no cure. Thousands of Australians will die unless every Australian drastically and immediately changes their behaviour.

“Give us the benefit of the doubt. We can handle the truth.

“In the second attempt, I appreciate that the information is presented with more authority. Given our hyper-vigilance right now, I bet people would sit up and listen.

“Regardless, the shift in tone still fails to land the point that if we all fail to follow these instructions people will die. This is not a time for polite suggestions.

“The campaign could use a healthy dose of clarity, conviction and an imperative call to action. As for alternative mediums — an immediate nation-wide alert or text from the Department of Health to every mobile phone in Australia with an imperative to ‘Stay home to save lives’ would have been nice.”

Rating: 2/10

Gavin McLeod, executive creative director at Ogilvy, says:

“I read Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ as a teenager and found it terrifying. He spends the first half of a very long book detailing the breakdown of civilisation due to the spread of a lethal virus. It scared the living bejeesuz out of me, so I’ve been nervously following the COVID-19 outbreak from the very early days.

“This campaign was designed to limit the spread in Australia, but glossed over many of the details which actually made the suggested measures effective. Case in point, as we now know, even the routine act of washing our hands is something most of us have been doing wrong.

“Unfortunately, there is little in these campaigns that cuts-through and compels people to adopt these critical new behaviours. The one thing that has heartened me throughout this crisis is the rallying together of the vast majority of Australians that we are all in this together and we need to look out for one another. That’s the powerful truth that should be driving this work.

“The campaign could really benefit from a slogan similar to the great WW2 ones such as ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’ that united nations and changed behaviours.”

Rating: 4/10

Brand: Sportsbet
Campaign: Elite Average Games
Agency: In-house
The verdict: Works in and outside of the pandemic

Ronkoske says: 

“I dig this work. It’s entertaining. Easy on the brain. And a fun distraction from our socially distant reality.

“The ‘Betting is easy’ strategy is clearly showing, but I forgive them because of gems like, ‘Silly Salmon into a horsey!’ You can easily see how this work can be spliced and diced across channels and works naturally as a long-form piece.

“These ads make me want to lose money with ease.

“Pre-COVID-19, this campaign would have been a no-brainer to run. It has a tight organising idea in ‘Elite Average Games’, is entertaining and can flex.

“Given the new world order, this campaign still works. People could use a laugh while they’re trapped in their houses. Slight tweak — the product proof points could be traded out for brand-level messaging. We’ll have little immediate need for features like the AFL Player Hub until the sports world thaws after the coronavirus has run its course.”

Rating: 8/10

McLeod says:

“I always try and look at ad campaigns from two perspectives. Firstly, from my position as a self-admitted advertising tragic. Then there’s my alter ego who slumps onto the couch at the end of a long week and just wants to be entertained without my brain having to get out of neutral.

“Both of my personas love this campaign. The ad tragic appreciates clients who have the confidence to back fun, silly mass appeal ideas. And, Zombie-me instantly relates to the idea of ‘Elite Average Games’ and is lazily cheering the athletes on from the couch.

“I’m sure that when this campaign was made, the ads were intended as a playful dig at our tendency to ‘Nike-fy’ our sport stars and our national obsession with winning. No-one would ever have guessed that these average athletes will be the only sports stars that we’ll be watching for the foreseeable future. And, I for one don’t mind that one little bit.”

Rating: 7/10

Brand: Billy
Campaign: Meet Billy
Agency: Thinkerbell
The verdict: Achieves a lot with a simple idea

Ronkoske says:

“Billy will help people babysit their parents from afar.

“Strategy check.

“Given the name, I get why they introduced the product like you would a person. And they do it with some attitude and irreverence. Beyond that, I struggle with the creative. The cut between each ‘Billy’ spoon feeds the idea to caregivers. Billy assumes their audience is as senile as the elderly they depict in the ads.

“I question whether they needed to show the sensors at all. Showing a little more respect for the intelligence of their audience could have given the living breathing ‘Billy’ more airtime to cement his antics and the reasons why he and his generation need a little extra oversight.”

Rating: 5/10

McLeod says:

“I’m pretty sure that Billy is a classic IOT startup with a great product that answers a very real need in aged-care, but has a tiny marketing budget. Given that, the agency has wrung everything they could from the budget and deserves credit.

“If I was working on this, I’d feel a real responsibility to deliver work that works so I appreciate that the agency has created a campaign that lands the name and product benefits simply and clearly. I also think they’ve done a solid job establishing a distinctive visual identity and I appreciate that they have thought through the next steps in terms of search. It looks like they have also seamlessly extended the campaign into the digital experience, so big tick from me here as well.

“I don’t think this is a campaign that is going to win the agency fame and fortune on the awards circuit, but I do think it’s one that will make a positive impact on a client’s business.”

Rating: 6/10

Brand: St George
Campaign: The Chase
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
The verdict: A tried and tested strategy

Ronkoske says:

“This is a well-crafted execution that brings to life the lengths St George people will go for customers.  Also, a nice use of the ‘Little Dragon’ as a distinctive asset.

“That said, the strategy and idea feel generic to banking and nearly every other ‘customer-centric’ product, service or experience we encounter. People expect exceptional experiences that include great customer service, thoughtful design and intuitive navigation because of their interactions with the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Netflix.

“It’s not enough to be about ‘Our people’. If St George fails to meet the standards set by companies they do not directly compete with, then they will be seen to fail.

“Given the lockdown, how is technology and intuitive design enabling St George customer service to go above and beyond? I would make that the focus of the next round of work.”

Rating: 5/10

McLeod says: 

“This one is a hard one for me to be objective about as I was working at M&C Saatchi on ANZ Bank when the agency launched ‘The Chase’ Small Business TV ad in 2009. Ironically, it was also directed by Paul Middleditch who I think is a very talented director and he’s also done a brilliant job on the St George version of ‘The Chase’. Complicating things further is that they are both rooted in the idea that the bank’s staff are at the centre of what makes them special.

“It’s interesting that both agencies landed this point in completely different ways using the same dramatic theme of a chase. I think the St George dragon is a strong branding device for the bank and Paul’s deftly incorporated it into the narrative. I think the ad could do with a lighter touch on the brand cues, but I’d be surprised of it didn’t perform well for St George as it’s entertaining to watch and lands its point clearly in an engaging way. If it wasn’t for the M&C ad, I would have liked this a lot more.”

Rating: 5/10

  • As told to Zoe Wilkinson. If you’re a senior creative or strategist who would like to take part in a future Campaign Review, please email zoew@mumbrella.com.au

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