Campaign Review: Virgin Australia’s plea for help and Furphy’s ‘extremely campaignable idea’

Mumbrella invites the industry’s creatives and strategists to offer their views on the latest ad campaigns. This week, The Hallway's Jessica Thompson and Saatchi & Saatchi's Jack Gilbert offer their views on Virgin Australia's public call for government intervention, HBF's message of 'everything’s going to be alright', Furphy's nostalgic brand platform and Cadbury's heartwarming Easter campaign.

Brand: Virgin Australia
Campaign: Monopoly in Australian skies
Agency: DDB Sydney
The verdict: Lacks a call to action and sympathetic tone

Jessica Thompson, senior copywriter at The Hallway, says:

“I don’t really understand what Virgin wants out of this ad. It feels like lobbying disguised as marketing, and as an everyday paper-reader, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next. Contact my local member? Write an angry Facebook post? Slam my fist on the table and then line my birdcage with the pages? I don’t have a bird. So I’m not sure what to do.

“I feel like, in light of massive COVID-related redundancies across the airline industry and Australians’ fears that a) they won’t be able to travel for a while and b) when they can, they won’t be able to afford it, it might’ve been better to reach out to us with a message of reassurance that, yes, times are tough, but Virgin is doing everything it can (including a bit of lobbying) to get us back in the air safely and affordably ASAP.”

Rating: 4/10

Jack Gilbert, strategic planner at Saatchi & Saatchi, says:

“Anxiety limits our field of view. A lot of us right now don’t have the capacity to think big picture, so I can’t imagine many people stopped and thought too hard about Virgin after reading this when things closer to home are probably just as, if not more insecure.

“I also think leaning on ‘fair’ to earn support from Australians was the wrong move. It’s just such a contentious word that opens you up to so many retaliations.

“When a conglomerate like Virgin asks you to think about ‘what’s fair’ during this crisis, are you more inclined to feel empathy for them or ask…

“‘Is it fair that many Australians from disabled, music and arts communities have slipped through the cracks of Government funding when airlines are asking for $1.4bn handouts?’

“‘Is it fair that you’re asking to bailed out but don’t agree to be partly owned by the Government, even though it’s tax payer money funding this?’

“I’m not saying they’re not deserving of a bailout, just that it feels like they chose a pun over a better approach – which maybe would have been to show more vulnerability.”

Rating: 2/10

Brand: HBF
Campaign: Stay Well Australia
Agency: Cummins & Partners
The verdict: Lacks brand salience

Thompson says:

“I think it’s in our nature to seek out consolation in times of crisis, and the silver lining of this particular apocalypse seems to be that it’s forcing us to reconsider what matters and to find new ways to nurture it. What brand wouldn’t want to jump on those values?

“There are a lot of brands and organisations putting out this type of message right now, and heartwarming UGC [user-generated content] is really having a moment, so there’s nothing groundbreaking about this spot, but it does make me feel nice. Will it influence HBF’s market share? I doubt it. But hopefully it makes their existing customers feel good about sticking around.”

Rating: 5/10

Gilbert says: 

“I think any work being made right now deserves to be commended – and it’s clear that the team behind this had to operate in nimble ways to make it happen.

“The message behind this also feels genuinely reassuring. It’s uplifting and I’m sure helps people feel supported, which we know is what Australians are expecting from brands right now.

“But in trying to feel supportive, I think it sacrifices brand distinctiveness. I’d feel the same about this spot regardless of what logo featured on the end frame. This unfortunately leaves me feeling like this is one of many generic COVID messages out there, as opposed to one that’s coming from a brand with a genuine purpose and reason for talking at the moment.

“I think finding a tactful way to lean on some of HBF’s brand differences (e.g. one of few funds who haven’t increased premiums this year) would have given this more substance.

“The scarce branding makes it clear that the brief was to put positivity before the brand – but I don’t think there’s enough of the brand here for Australians to watch this and think any differently about HBF.”

Rating: 5/10

Brand: Furphy
Campaign: The unbelievable kick
Agency: Thinkerbell
The verdict: ‘An extremely campaignable idea’

Thompson says:

“Cute. Fun. Simple. Short shorts. What more could you want in a beer ad?

“It’d be easy to question the validity of the mates-in-the-pub story in this era of isolation, but I think that it actually works in Furphy’s favour. I’m sure every culture around the world would claim that talking shit over beers in the pub is their thing, but this spot really does feel unequivocally Australian, with a good dose of nostalgia to go with it. We’re all pining for those pre-COVID days, so while we’re stuck at home Zooming our friends with no new news to share, why not make some up and give us all something to look forward to?”

Rating: 8/10

Gilbert says: 

“I love it – it makes me nostalgic for classic Australian beer advertising of old, from when I was too young to drink.

“Is Furphy more modern than what this spot makes it out to be? Maybe. But I don’t think it matters. In fact, I’m glad Thinkerbell didn’t compromise on a strong organising idea by trying to match up to how people currently perceive Furphy (a brand that so far hasn’t needed advertising to be embraced around Australia). The end result is memorable and funny advertising that feels closely connected to  the brand. It’s an extremely campaignable idea that will help get the Furphy name in to our vernacular.

“I also think the world’s current situation is pretty forgiving on this campaign. There isn’t a better time to anchor your platform in storytelling (and exaggerating). Human connection is as important as ever right now, even if we’re expressing it in slightly different ways.

“We’ve also never been more keen for a drink with friends at our local pub. There’s enough research out there to know that as the world is stuck inside romanticising all the things they could be doing, it’s the smaller freedoms like eating and drinking out that are missed most.

“But forgetting all of that for a second, this is just genuinely entertaining. The goal umpire’s exaggerated hand movements get me every time. I can’t wait to see the next instalment.”

Rating: 9/10

Brand: Cadbury
Campaign: Twins
Agency: Ogilvy
The verdict: Paired back and tied closely with strategy

Thompson says:

“I’m not crying, you’re crying. This spot is adorable and I wish I had a broken leg so someone would do something cute like this for me.

“First of all, I love that there’s no music. The crunching of grass under foot, the sighs of frustration and delight, and the constant soundscape of chattering birds in the background all come together to create a sense of closeness, focus, secrecy and surprise. It gave me serious childhood Easter flashbacks, and – I might be reading too much into it here – but it seemed like a nod to the conspiratorial intimacy of siblings. Real warm and fuzzies.

“As a COVID response, it’s sweet. We were all disappointed to miss out on the Easters we’re used to, but that didn’t have to mean kicking tradition or failing to connect with our friends and families. We just had to find craftier ways to go about it.”

Rating: 9/10

Gilbert says: 

“People have challenged Ogilvy’s choice to not feature music, but I think they got the tone of this one pretty spot on. For me, it feels stripped back just enough to feel grounded and real.

“Because no one needs to be told right now that the world is perfect – especially from a chocolate brand. Hall & Partners run a great barometer check on Australian thoughts and feelings, and last week it told us that while most Australians believe brands have a role to play during COVID, only 16% want brands to offer optimism right now; it’s too soon to feel like our lives should be a happy montage with a Top 40 song playing in the background.

“You can sit on either side of the fence for this one, but I like that this doesn’t feel bigger than it should be. For me, it actually brings it back down, closer to the strategy – showing that small acts of giving are around us every day, and Cadbury help us see those moments more often. It doesn’t always need to be a big song and dance. I do wonder though if the story is as easily followed in a shorter cut down of the spot.”

Rating: 7/10

  • 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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