Gruen Transfer passes its fat challenge

It’s always been a tough one for agencies to decide whether to take part in The Pitch segment on The Gruen Transfer.  

The downside being the time and effort involved in creating an ad; being open to the accusation of being fame-hungry and, perhaps most pressingly of all, the potential embarrassment of losing four nil to a better agency on the night.

On the upside though, it’s potentially great exposure. Many people will still remember 303’s “100% there for the taking” ad in favour of invading New Zealand in the first series.

It can also lead to business, as Euro RSCG’s “keeping the bastards honest” work for the Democrats demonstrated.

And indeed, it also led to an invitation to return as an occasional panellist for Euro’s Rowan Dean.

No wonder, people will go to some lengths to win – one agency which appeared very recently is rumoured to have hired a freelancer just to work on the brief. A lot of favours are also called in from production houses to do the work.

But this week, there’s another risk to consider – what happens if your work is too controversial?

That’s the situation Adam Hunt found himself in with his antidiscrimination ad, aimed at shocking audiences into seeing jokes about fat people as offensive as racism or homophobia.

He could easily have been hung out to dry – particularly when the ABC decided it couldn’t be aired.

It put the company that makes the program – Andrew Denton’s Zapruder’s Other Films – in a very difficult situation.

The company relies on the ABC for a large chunk of its revenue. So – powerful as Denton might be – Zapruder still can’t afford to piss off the ABC. It would have been easier for them to quietly drop the segment and say no more. But on the other hand, Gruen would struggle without the goodwill of the advertising industry.

Nonetheless, Zapruder went more than the extra mile – creating its own website, outside of the ABC so that the ad could be aired. Not only that, but they emptied the studio and got Hunt back in for a fuller, and challenging, conversation around the ad. It gave him a chance to show that his intentions were serious.

(For me, Wil Anderson’s intelligent handling of that debate showed that he’s come on a lot in his own role, by the way.)

It’s a shame the discussion won’t be shown on TV – it was an intelligent insight into how a creative cracks their brief, and changes their own thinking in the process. If Gruen was made for the industry, rather than the public, this is the sort of programme we’d see.

The result is that an informed debate is taking place around a topic that hadn’t had a great deal of attention. Already there are hundreds of comments on the website. I can’t think of another TVC with zero media spend that’s had a bigger impact.

But Zapruder, which will soon enough be asking the industry to support it for a third series, has also passed a test. If you go on the show, they won’t throw you to the sharks when the going gets tough. It could easily have happened this week; I’m glad it didn’t.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.