With the return of the Gruen franchise to ABC1 next week, producer Jon Casimir shares some of his favourite contributions to The Pitch, in which agencies take a crack at selling the unsellable.
Our favourite ten Pitch ads? Wow, this was hard. There have been many amazing contributions across four seasons of The Gruen Transfer, two of Gruen Planet and one each of Gruen Nation and Gruen Sweat. Some have stopped us in our tracks, others have melted the office down in laughter. Many hands and minds at many agencies have gone beyond the call of duty to come up with ads for our show. We can never thank them enough. Or pay them enough, but that’s an ABC budget for you…
This list, then, is as close as we can come to agreeing on our faves. And yes, there’s an ulterior motive to its compilation. Gruen is back on air next Wednesday. We’re kicking off with four episodes of our election spinoff, Gruen Nation, then following with eight episodes of Planet. And we’re looking for agencies who might want to live up to, or even better, the legacy of these ads. If you’d like to know more, email us at GruenHQ@cjz.com.au
1. MAKE WHALE MEAT A FAMILY FAVOURITE – DDB
Way back in the very first episode of The Gruen Transfer in 2008, this pitch hit the exact note we were hoping for. The incredible power of advertising lays in its ability to change minds, even on seemingly impossible briefs like this one. The idea that one whale’s life could save the lives of 200 cows is strangely resonant.
2. INVADE NEW ZEALAND – 303
Sometimes taking a humorous approach to The Pitch creates nothing more than a skit, but when the heavy metal afterburners kick in and this ad invites you to lay waste to Middle Earth, it’s hard not to feel the call to action. It really is 100% there for the taking, isn’t it? Thankfully, New Zealanders showed they have a brilliant sense of humour by seeing the fun in this ad.
3. AN ANTI-AUSTRALIAN TOURISM AD – The Glue Society
Only a few episodes later, we repaid New Zealand’s generosity by taking their side and challenging agencies to come up with an international tourism campaign to stop global travellers coming to Australia. It’s pretty hard to argue with this one.
4. COMPULSORY EUTHANASIA FOR 80 YEAR OLDS – The Works and Jack Watts Currie
We never ask agencies taking on The Pitch to be funny. But we almost always ask them to consider not pressing the humour button. This is an example of a ridiculous brief met with deadly, and we do mean deadly, serious responses. The result? Two ads we love equally, and a challenge that showed the genuine power of persuasion. It might not make you change your view, but it might make you glimpse the possibility.
5. THE GREENS – The Republic Of Everyone
For Gruen Nation in 2010, the offer to agencies was not to take on impossible briefs, but to take on genuine election briefs, but do them better than the real advertising we were seeing on our screens. The Republic Of Everyone came up with an ad for The Greens so simple, clear and elegant that (as Todd predicted they would on the show) the party rang up and asked to use it. That couldn’t happen – the ABC could never be seen to offer content to a political party. But the agency later picked up the account.
6. THE PARENT LICENCE – Play
Look, we’re suckers for any soundtrack that borrows from, sorry, pays homage to Massive Attack, but beyond that, this is another effort that takes the professional approach, delivering an ad that is moving and believable and grabs you from the first second to the last.
7. MAKE US LIKE BOAT PEOPLE – It’s The Thought That Counts
Let’s not go into the whys of it, but suffice to say, pretty much the hardest brief you could give in Australia, right? Ron Mather’s work here is direct and undeniable. It starts with an unfussy script and holds true from first to last frame.
8. CONVINCE AUSSIES THAT GINA RINEHART SHOULD RUN FAIRFAX – Loud and Clear
With Gruen Planet, we began to wind back the impossibility of Pitch challenges, to replace them with briefs that were unlikely but real. This was the epitome of the approach. Gina Rinehart was attempting to buy a big stake in Fairfax. There was talk that she’d ruin the papers. We challenged agencies to come up with ads to make media-proprietor-Gina look like a great thing. This one did it by borrowing all the Qantas tricks and proving that everything is twice as convincing when you sing it.
9. BRING THE OLYMPICS TO TASMANIA – Red Jelly
For the final episode of Gruen Sweat in 2012, we asked a Darwin agency and a Tasmanian agency to come up with ads suggesting that their respective capitals should be the host city for the 2024 Games. The Darwin one was good, but the Tassie one made all the jokes that only insiders can make. Laugh? We coughed up blood.
10. PAPER BOOKS, NOT EBOOKS – Enigma and Thinkbone
How do you make something old-fashioned and a bit dowdy seem like the right choice when there’s a new, sexy, technological alternative? This was another Pitch challenge where we loved both attempts, and not just because we’re the kind of people who want to snuggle up with a paperback. These ads were smart and funny, but more importantly, they were insightful. Couldn’t split them.
Jon Casimir is producer and one of the creators of the Gruen franchise. He works for production house CJZ. Gruen Nation begins Wednesday August 14 at 8:30pm on ABC1