MLA’s banned religious lamb ad is ‘a great example of creating unity’, says agency boss

Meat and Livestock Australia’s ad featuring a meat-eating Lord Ganesha was a “great example of creating unity” despite its controversy, One Green Bean CEO Carl Ratcliff told an audience at Mumbrella’s CommsCon.

Despite the ad causing uproar across various religious communities, and ultimately being banned after an independent review, Ratcliff said the campaign “brought people together” and encouraged religions to discuss their differences.

The ad in question featured a number of religious figures around a table, sharing some lamb. It was initially cleared by the Advertising Standards Board, but this decision was reversed, after it received over 200 complaints and Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders urged for the ad to be banned.

After an independent review which found “substantial flaws” in the initial decision, the Board upheld the complaint claiming MLA gave “inadequate consideration to how seriously some Australians take their religious views”.

Ratcliff, however, said today: “There’s been lots of stories recently about how Buddhists and Hindus in particular came together to talk about not just the campaign, but about the differences in their religion and if a piece of communication can do that, I think that’s extraordinary. I really do.

“And so if you go back to the overarching thought about unity, which is what this presentation is all about, then this is a great example of creating unity through a piece of communication.”

Green and Ratcliff presenting at Mumbrella’s CommsCon

The Monkeys’ CEO Mark Green admitted that while in “some instances” the campaign and agencies involved “may have overstepped the mark”, it still delivered results for the MLA.

Statistics released in the presentation revealed the advertisement attracted 11m+ content views and 536 unique pieces of media coverage with a total opportunity to see of two billion.

The campaign also had 80% key message penetration.

“What could possibly go wrong when you put daemons, gods and religions around a table to talk about lamb?,” Green said.

“It wasn’t the thing that we thought would probably get the most attention for but it did sort of blow up. It was on the front page of The India Times and there was a global conversation throughout the campaign for many different reasons at different points in time.

“The debate that went through and ultimately how we managed and navigated our way through that during the campaign period, delivered for MLA the results they wanted even though, in some instances, we may have overstepped the mark.”

Also in the session, Green and Ratcliff discussed collaboration – something they have done together for a long period of time. They pointed to the importance of being respectful of each person involved, and not trying to do “everything”.

Green said agencies should realise what they’re good at and focus on it, and argued cultural differences are a key challenge in collaboration.

“Not everyone can come up with the idea, not everyone has the skill to then amplify it, not everyone should,” Green said.

“The other part of it is being able to disagree well in that room, not being wallflowers and sitting around and waiting for someone to come up with an answer.”

He said when putting agencies – with varying cultures and thus different outcomes – in a room, it was important to find the right people that “align to the outcome” of the client or those who can get you there with a sense of “camaraderie”.

One Green Bean’s Ratcliff admitted he would love a go at “making a piece of content”, but said it wasn’t his job “in this instance”.

“Our job is to amplify the great creative and content that is coming out of The Monkeys.

“Clarity is knowing your role within any given group and then in collaboration, contrary to what Mark has said, good ideas shouldn’t come from anywhere. It’s sound counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

“Collaboration is not a democracy, collaboration is about when you know you’re role and position within the cohort. And what happens if you let good ideas come from anywhere is chaos.”

Ratcliff doesn’t believe chaos is good in collaboration, dubbing it “tedious”.

“Great ideas emerge and happen when group members are allowed to play to their strengths. When they are allowed to play to their strengths, the group takes on the wider view. It takes on the point of view that is more diverse, and of course a wider view, not a narrow view, a diverse view rather than a small view, will produce better work,” he said.

But Green and Ratcliff made a point of saying collaborating was about more than just coming together on an idea.

Ratcliff said collaborating was about managing stakeholders and talking to them, while Green added banding together “when things get hairy” is also key.

“The professionalism that goes into the decisions that are made from the strategy in the first place, to the platform, to the brand, to then how do we go about having the conversations with the wider audience are really well thought through and managed really well,” Green said.

“We’ve had some challenges but we’ve always managed to band together when things are looking a little hairy as well which is not always commonplace.”


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