Campaign Review: UFOs, scaring your audience and a food delivery app ad without a celebrity!

This week in Campaign Review, Havas/Host's CEO, Gayle While, and TRA's head of strategy, Carl Sarney, share their thoughts on recent spots from SmoothFM, DoorDash and the Victorian Government's Department of Justice and Community Safety.

In Campaign Review, Mumbrella invites industry creatives and strategists to offer their views on recent ad campaigns.

Brand: SmoothFM

Campaign: ‘Together in Music’

Agency: The Hallway

The verdict: A catchy tune, a charmful TVC, and unapologetic storytelling.

Gayle While, CEO at Havas/Host, gave it a 7/10, and said:

I was humming ‘We Built This City’ for an annoying amount of time after watching the TVC. This campaign is a big step forward from Robbie Williams and other radio stations in terms of its ambition and craft.

Whilst the insight that music brings people together isn’t new, or unique to SmoothFM, the platform has great potential. Hopefully, The Hallway can keep pushing it forward to keep it fresh.

Does it transcend galaxies? No. But the TVC has charm and I’m sure it will have people joyfully bouncing around their homes and putting Smooth back on their list of stations to scroll through on their way to work.

The OOH executions stand out. Elevating the campaign through their simplicity. The dynamic and targeted nature of the artist choice will connect with the right audience.

All in all the work leaves you feeling like you do after listening to Smooth – a familiar sense of contentment.

Carl Sarney, head of strategy at TRA, gave it a 6/10, and said:

Not the only ad to use UFO’s lately. SquareSpace did it in their Superbowl ad, too. Although Nova Entertainment didn’t need Martin Scorsese to direct their one. Paul Middleditch and Fanatic Films have made this just about as entertaining (in my humble strategists opinion). What’s more, the SmoothFM branding is so much better than SquareSpace achieved by simply relying on a logo at the end of their very expensive Superbowl ad. Oh yeah, used aliens alongside Jeff Goldblum in their Superbowl ad too. Something from outer space must be in the creative air at the moment.

Ok, so back to SmoothFM. The way this big idea zigs to the zag of conventional radio station campaigns will help it get attention, and the attention isn’t wasted on unbranded storytelling. We see the brand pop up, on a car radio, right at the moment Micky Thomas sings the line ‘listen to the radio’ four seconds into the ad. It all fits together, stamping the brand in people’s memory from the get-go. We then see another shot of the logo on the car radio before we see it for a third time on the end frame. This is exactly how unapologetic branding can afford to be if you’ve got something as entertaining as a UFO belting out a banger to fill the rest of the frames.

But does it sell? Well, the TVC alone feels to me like it will do a great job of reinforcing brand pride among existing listeners. An important job for any radio station to do in these times of streaming anything from anywhere. It’s fun, upbeat, and it depicts listeners in a cool yet relatable way. The wider campaign and the enduring ‘together in music’ brand platform might work to get new listeners switching stations. The new TVC also injects a whole lot more energy and meaning into the ‘together in music’ idea. If the TVC proves a hit with Australian audiences, I’d be inclined to keep it on air for years before switching to something new. Committing to UFOs for the long-term across all their brand touchpoints would earn it a 10/10 from me. Entertaining ideas wear in, not out.

Brand: DoorDash

Campaign: ‘Smash It’

Agency: The Monkeys

The verdict: A simple, clever and modern brand identity, with a lot of potential.

While gave it an 8/10, and said:

A food delivery app ad without a celebrity! That’s certainly championing the everyday.

A category so defined by Uber makes it hard to build saliency without a significant and consistent media spend which I doubt DoorDash have.

I love the new brand identity. It is ‘smashing it’. Fresh, simple, and modern it stands out from the ‘green’ of competitors. The boldness and consistency of the OOH executions is refreshing. Hopefully the media plan has enough reach to help the campaign punch above it’s spend. It will be interesting to see how ‘Smash it’ rolls out across other channels and the experience itself. So much potential.

I’d give the TVC a 7 but the identity and OOH pushes it to an 8.

Sarney gave it a 6/10, and said:

Funny how an everyday slice of life becomes so much more dramatic and entertaining in slo-mo with a cinematic soundtrack. The slow-mo alone is likely to make this stand out a little more than most of the other ads in a commercial break. You got my attention.

Then there’s ‘the ding’. A good way to bring some DoorDash branding into the story early on. I’m not sure how recognisable, and therefore ownable, this particular ding is for DoorDash. If only the app had a more distinctive delivery notification sound. The dropped phone displaying the DoorDash logo shortly after the ding will help to get the brand attribution going. Add in a red-capped staff member with a bright red DoorDash bag before the end frame then finish off with a CTA that rhymes with the brand name and yes, the brand attribution should be good with this one.

A nice example of how recognisable brand codes can be woven through the story of an ad without getting in the way of the entertainment.

But does it sell? The clever bit about the dialogue isn’t just that it rhymes in an amusing way. In combo with the visuals they communicate a bunch of category entry points. Category entry points, or CEPs, are those life moments where the need to shop your category, in this case food and grocery delivery, comes to mind for prospective customers. Being the first brand to mind in these moments gives you a significant advantage in achieving a sale. Here they’re subtly aligning DoorDash with moments like watching TV with your mates, working from home, finishing the school pick-up. All moments where DoorDash is now that much more likely to come to mind first thanks to this campaign.

This has potential to become a 10/10 campaign. Question is, will they run it big enough for long enough to give the subtle CEP alignment the chance to work as hard as it could with time and exposure?

Brand: Victorian Government’s Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS)

Campaign: ‘Fire Safety’

Agency: VML

The verdict: A challenging brief. The campaign has an authentic tone, and strikes a good balance of scary vs overdramatic. 

While gave it an 8/10, and said:

Victoria is one of the most fire prone places on earth and parts of Victoria currently have daily ‘catastrophic’ warnings, so hopefully this campaign has been running in those areas.

The creative approach feels less confronting than previous Victoria Government campaigns.

Shifting from the tried and tested shock approach to a more authentic tone that empowers Victorians to prepare for such an emotional decision – Do you stay or go? – is a big deal, and the work is better for it.

The TVC avoids sounding preachy or overacted, which is a fine balance in Government advertising. The team have also kept the executions single minded and the high production values add to the storytelling. A well crafted and informative campaign that will hopefully make a meaningful difference to Victorians this fire season and is remembered for ones that follow.

Sarney gave it an 8/10, and said:

A tough brief. Motivating the public to act on safety advice isn’t as easy as it may seem. Here we have a call to action to ‘leave early on extreme or catastrophic fire warning days’. When facing catastrophe, you’d think people’s survival instinct would kick in strong. However, there’s another couple of instincts that can get in the way if the threat doesn’t feel immediate. First, there’s optimism bias. That old ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. Communicating fire danger in advertising requires careful balance. It needs to be real and scary enough to be motivating, yet not so dramatic people opt-out with a ‘yeah, right’ response. The danger also needs to feel personal, that this could really happen to me. A tricky balance to get right in broadcast comms. Then there’s also loss-aversion. Leaving early means abandoning your home. Deleting old photos from your phone is enough to trigger loss aversion, so it’s a very big ask to get people to leave their entire home and everything in it.

What VML have done well in this campaign is to strike a fairly good balance of scary vs overdramatic. The farming family depicted, models the desired behaviour; leaving what appears to be a substantial property. The shot showing inside the farm shed nods to the hard yakka that probably went into building it… and still, they leave it all behind to protect their family.

The VO is also smartly worded, comparing the unpredictable nature of fire to something people do have under their control; leaving. This is smart because it’s specific and frames the call to action as their own decision ‘you can control what you do’, which is quite different than asking directly ‘leave your home early’ which may get a ‘who are you to tell me what to do’ response.

Rounding the spot off nicely is the suggestion, in both the VO and visualised on the end frame, to search ‘Vic Emergency’. I tried out a quick google myself and was pleased to see it took me to a map showing live fire danger levels in just one click.

The one significant thing that pulled my rating down from a 10/10 is mention that this is just one of several spots that will air at once. I get that they probably have multiple messages they’d like to get across. Perhaps they’re even mandated to cover several messages. However, I’ve learned the hard way that diluting the available budget across multiple spots is seldom as effective as backing one message with all your production and media spend.

As told to Lauren McNamara.

If you are a senior creative or strategist who would like to take part in a future Campaign Review, please email Lauren at


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