Campaign Review: The verdict on HCF, Don Smallgoods, St George Bank and Victorian Government

In this series, Mumbrella invites the industry's most senior creatives and strategists to offer their views on the latest marketing campaigns. This week: Al Crawford, former executive planning director at Clemenger BBDO Sydney, and The Dylan Agency's creative partner Dylan Taylor.

Brand: HCF
Agency: The Monkeys
The verdict: Leaves you with ‘a positive outlook’ but ‘hasn’t found its centre of gravity yet’ 

HCF’s latest campaign reimagines everyday scenarios in a world where health is the first priority, such as a young girl winning a vegetable from what would be a toy machine, and exercise machine on commuter trains.

Al Crawford, former executive planning director at Clemenger BBDO Sydney says:

Crawford: Scenes “undoubtedly memorable” but campaign “hasn’t quite found its centre of gravity yet”

“When I was a young ‘un, I was forced to drink cod liver oil from a spoon on a regular basis. I suspect this is how most of us feel about private health insurance: we know it’s vaguely good for us, but we massively resent it nonetheless. Health insurers therefore spend their lives trying to sweeten the pill by coming up with ideas that give us a positive spin on a compulsory levy. HCF is no exception.

Since last year, it’s got a new look and feel that makes it look more jaunty and consumer-friendly and plays up its not-for-profit roots.

In terms of the paid comms, I’m less jazzed. The campaign is only in its early days, but it seems to have staggered all over the place, like a teenager after 12 schooners. Under the banner of Health Comes First, I’ve been treated to a gritty, meet-the-Superhumans-esque opening salvo, followed by a quirky stat-off that reveals the Chinese, Russians and Poms have it over us from a health perspective, to the latest instalment that asks me to ‘imagine a world’ where health comes first.

In this world which, incidentally, would traumatise my young children, the claw machine delivers you a pineapple, rather than a toy stuffed with asbestos fibre and the Mr. Whippy Van gives you vegetables, rather than listeria with a flake in it.

Some of the scenes are undoubtedly memorable, but I can’t help feel that this campaign hasn’t quite found its centre of gravity yet and that, buried beneath the executional rubble may just be a really simple thought: as the largest not-for-profit, we genuinely put your health first.”

Dylan Taylor, creative partner at The Dylan Agency says:

Taylor: “An execution that doesn’t offend”

“Whenever an ad starts with the words ‘imagine where’ you know what’s coming next is ‘a better place’ and of course that ‘better place’ is provided by ‘insert brand of your choice here’.

Despite, the familiar premise, HCF leaves you with a positive outlook. How so? Well, the Private Healthcare Industry has just made $1.3 billion dollars in profit and has government-approved premium rises that are on average three times that of inflation.

So HCF stating they are ‘a not-for-profit health fund’ and ‘putting people before profits’ is a clever strategy, expertly flying in the face of perceived gouging. With an execution that doesn’t offend, it’s an ad that ticks the strategy, creative, and execution boxes.”

Brand: Don Smallgoods
Agency: DDB Melbourne
What they said: ‘Genius’ with ‘surprising depth’ in both strategy and execution

After searching for Australians named Don, Don Smallgoods recruited three Australians to front its new campaign. In the ads, they share their passions and why the brand is part of their ‘everyday’ lives.

Crawford says:

“I’ll confess, my immediate response to this was a sense of dread. Recruitment of real people via a social media campaign to perform forced, wooden odes to a salami of their choice. So I was pleasantly surprised, when I actually bothered to view the campaign, by both strategy and execution because there’s surprising depth to each.

Strategically, the campaign understands that Don faces an issue of relevance, not of salience. It’s too easy to see it as a lacklustre gastronomic sideshow punted by a superannuated wurst-lover of dubious Eastern European provenance. So this campaign squarely aims at putting Don back on its pedestal at the heart of modern Australian life.

Credit to client and agency, also for not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Too often, when people are looking to overhaul brands, they jettison everything, but the offbeat humour and iconic strapline persist, so that the Don DNA lives on.

As for the executions, they’re richer than some proxy campaigns– like the McChicken stuff that had people called ‘Chicken’ eating its product – perhaps because there is such strong strategic intent here. They’ve also found some interesting subjects and coaxed some decent performances out of them, aided and abetted by a good voiceover that memorably calls time on the retro-lover in one ad. The minimalism and dry humour of the fishing execution is also something to be applauded in a world of jam-packed voice-overs and hyperactivity. To bastardise Don, ‘Is good. Will make tills ring.’”

Taylor says:

“Selling meat is a tricky business. Little plastic packets of disassembled animals lined up on supermarket shelves is not really the stuff of ‘Babe’, and with their thin, perfect slicing, it’s a little more Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

But putting that aside, the team with this one have certainly served up a strategy that any client would find extremely tasty: building on a positioning line of many years, they link the name of the brand to everyone in the commercial. Genius.

However, the strength of the strategy undercuts the execution. Humour is hard. Some ads are funny, others not so much, but then some prefer salami, some ham…”

Brand: St George Bank
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
The Verdict: ‘A change of pace and direction’ with some ‘peak-end creativity’

St George Bank has introduced Little Dragon, a small animated dragon who gives life coaching and advice about home loans and investments to St George customers.

Crawford says:

“Obviously the Byron Sharp part of me loves this campaign. It’s branded up the wazoo with a distinctive asset that could only be for St. George. More than that, it’s not just a device, it’s connected to the have-a-go, entrepreneurial spirit of the bank, so it has an idea behind it that comes from the heart of the brand. With Commonwealth Bank recently going all emo with ‘Can’, its levity, positivity and dynamism will stand out even more.

Plus there are some funny, memorable bits in it, not least the Wolf of Wall Street hoofing of high-grade Dragon gak that he seems to perform in the Family Pledge ad and the finales of both which leave you with a smile; some great ‘peak-end’ creativity there.

My bigger question is a strategic one. Whilst I understand that Start Something and Release your Inner Dragon are compatible thoughts, it feels like they’re almost vying with one another for attention. How far Inner Dragon will extend across every product also seems up for grabs.

The link in the press release that takes you to more Inner Dragon content on the site seems to be more of a vanity link than something you can get to with ease on the site proper. And he makes only fleeting appearances on Facebook and elsewhere. That’s something that probably needs to be resolved over the next few months: is the Inner Dragon idea and device a cameo or the main event?

Finally, one of the great things about working in marketing is that you get to field questions like this from Mumbrella: ‘What are your thoughts on using an animated dragon to connect with the Australian audience?’ My answer: provided he doesn’t suddenly grow up into Godzilla/Smaug and start eating children, I think it’ll do very well.”

Taylor says:

“Advertising financial services with a spokesperson is a true and trusted formula: ING have had Billy Connolly, and now Isla Fisher. Aussie after a couple of attempts has shaken off Aussie John, but still have a spokesperson. And, St. George, now have a dragon. We’ll if you can’t afford to stump up for a celeb, why not build your own (out of your logo).

But do the ads work? Well in the first, mum is being inspired to trade up. And in ad two, the parent is being cajoled into being a guarantor on what could be a 40-year commitment.

Overall, the dialogue does feel forced and a bit unwieldy. However, it could be argued, they’re just bedding the dragon in and the next executions will help lift brand recall. Ultimately after the cute kid in the Start Something work, this is a change of pace and direction. Only time will tell if the dragon flies.”

Brand: Victorian Government – Trains
Agency: Y&R Melbourne
What they said: A ‘concise, good-looking and elegant’ solution but ‘may have little impact’

The out-of-home campaign aimed to help commuters understand travel delays, changes to the Melbourne train network and the benefits of new infrastructure.

Crawford says:

“I feel for the Transport Victoria Network. With the brief exception of cheery Twitter messages telling you where accessible toilets are at every station – a must for me after detonating my gastric system by drinking Nile water in my 20s – they play host to some of the briefs from hell: having to explain to commuters why they’ll be late to a job they more than likely hate or why their beloved 362 will be setting them down four kilometres from their usual location for the next six months.

This brief is another potential horror show: find a way of calming furious commuters irked by the building works and subsequent disruption they’ll suffer.

The solution is concise, good-looking and elegant and will probably reduce the size of bulging forehead veins in at least 33% of the travelling population. It’s a classic piece of reframing, connecting the current disruption with the future benefit of a shiny, utopian transport network where everyone whistles on their way to work and no-one is ever late.

On top of that, it’s visually simple and verbally concise, a nice juxtaposition to the noisy, builder’s-bum-crack-ridden chaos that is probably playing out in front of their eyes. Is it completely original? No. I feel like this is a fairly familiar trope that has been used by everyone from Stalinist Russian propaganda onwards. Is it a great thought and executed well in a medium that’s right for the task? Oh aye.”

Taylor says:

“Apparently, when the Empire State Building was opened, it was rapidly filled. With its heavy patronage came its own problems. The tenants began to complain about the queues for the lifts, the crush in the foyer and the waiting times. After trial and error, a truly elegant, creative solution was found: mirrors. People are quite happy to suffer some inconvenience if they can stare at themselves.

Fast forward 80 or so years and we have a not dissimilar situation. Melbourne has had almost 1 million new people crammed into it from 2004 to 2016 (Source: ABS). Constant overcrowding appears the norm, with one train on the Pakenham line designed to carry around 800 people carrying a whopping 1,262.

So, are these executions the ‘mirror solution’ to soothe crushed and harried commuters? Reading them I can’t help but feel that their good news message seems empty. There is no promise of when it will done; what the outcome will be; no sign of an apology for the inconvenience; nor do you have the opportunity to gaze at yourself whilst you wait. This work may have pacified the Victorian Government, but it may have little impact with the commuters of Melbourne.”

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


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