MLA’s summer campaign: border closures, Morrison’s holiday and lamb reuniting the nation

Border closures are front and centre of the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) 2021 summer lamb campaign, but at the heart remains the brand's consistent message of unity. Mumbrella's Zoe Wilkinson chats to domestic marketing manager Graeme Yardy about Christmas lockdowns, tongue-in-cheek humour, and taking a jab at Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“As soon as we saw it in shot, we just went: ‘Yep. Absolutely. It works,” Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) domestic marketing manager, Graeme Yardy, tells Mumbrella.

A disembodied hand reaches through a sky-high concrete wall, separating Queensland and New South Wales, offering a curious elderly man a simple lamb chop. He leans over it, and takes a bite.

“It’s one we discussed a lot in pre-production, just around that shot. Would he even be able to take a bite? Would we do some sort of cutaway with people? You know, sometimes people don’t like seeing food being actually eaten,” Yardy says.

But the bite made the cut, and in the ad it kicks off a revolution of people tearing down the walls that divide the states in a 2031 version of Australia, all for the love of lamb.

This is MLA’s annual summer lamb ad. It’s peppered with so much detail that each time you watch, you notice something different – a passing glance, a historical allusion, a subtle (or not so subtle) joke.


In the two-and-a-half minute film, set 10 years in the future, Sydneysiders in their designer sneakers join farmers, teachers and rugby players to break down the walls separating states. Western Australia tunnels its way east and the bewildered Tasmanians make it across the Bass Strait. A couple (somewhat) reunites. And, the original ‘Lambassador’, Sam Kekovich, makes an appearance atop a tank.

The campaign was created by The Monkeys, MLA’s long-standing creative partner, and brought to life by Ariel Martin from Airbag.

In its humour, the ad draws inspiration from an unspeakable year, during which Australians had never been more physically separated, but true to its brand, MLA is sending a message of unity.

“Australia was definitely a bit battered and bruised when we first briefed this in,” Yardy reflects.

“We probably still felt a little bit that way coming to the end of 2020. So, what we really said was lamb has a really important role to play. We show up around this time every year and we wanted to celebrate the Australian spirit and really give people that sense of hope about the world moving forward after what’s been a really tough year.”

Walls that divided states are brought down in the 2021 summer lamb ad

An outbreak on Sydney’s Northern Beaches mere days before Christmas put hard border restrictions back in place, extinguishing the hope for many Australians to see family and friends they hadn’t been with for 12 months or more.

Setting the ad in 2031 enabled the campaign to see the lighter side of the situation. Yardy says they wanted to “take it away from the challenge that people are facing today and make it somewhat surreal” by “using some very dramatic license”.

It is a difficult thing, to recognise what we have all been through with good humour while not making light of the pain the essential safety measures have caused.

While some were lucky enough to beat the Victorian border closure before Christmas (this author included) to spend Christmas with family, there were thousands of people less lucky.

“We’ve thought long and hard about that and we know that this is a situation that is stressful and distressing for some people,” Yardy says.

“It has kept people apart, especially though the holiday season – as it has for many people who worked on this ad, including myself, so it’s been very close to us.

“And I actually think that’s what makes this so relevant and hopefully a powerful piece of communication.”

The Monkeys’ creative director, Scott Dettrick, adds: “The last year has been so surreal that as a country we have come to accept that anything is possible.

“The idea of virtual borders becoming real ones in the near future feels more real than it probably should. The start of 2021 is a great time for us to reflect and bring people back together over some lamb.”

Executive creative director, Vince Lagana, notes that, while “border closures have challenged our Aussie spirit with our nation feeling more separated than ever”, there’s “nothing a little optimism, good natured fun and a unifying lamb cutlet can’t fix.”

MLA has never shied away from the political in its campaigns – proposing a union with New Zealand after a revolving door of Prime Ministers, acknowledging Indigenous Australians’ rights, and identifying those who have come to Australia throughout history as ‘boat people’ in previous years’ campaigns.

Rounding out this year’s film is the arrival of a lei and Hawaiian shirt-clad Scott Morrison-look-alike asking: “What have I missed?”.

It’s a direct reference to the Prime Minister’s absence during the 2019-20 bushfire crisis while on holiday in Hawaii, and perhaps points to state Premiers holding more power and prominence than ever before. But Yardy insists it’s just “tongue-in-cheek humour”.

“We think probably after 10 years [referring to the 2031 setting of the ad] Scott Morrison’s due a holiday. And where else but Hawaii?” he remarks.

The annual lamb campaign is also steeped in the politics of Australia Day. In a previous life, the campaign featured Kekovich deeming that not eating lamb on Australia Day was ‘unAustralian’, creating a direct association between the meat and the day. But in recent years the conversation has shifted, with many pushing to change the date, recognising the invasion and genocide that 26 January represents for Indigenous Australians. In response, MLA has sought to distance itself from the day.

“We want to be inclusive and not everyone marks Australia Day as a positive day,” Yardy explains.

“It’s not that we don’t support a day that is a great day to celebrate Australia but we want to be as inclusive and serve as many people as possible.

“I don’t think it’s worthwhile taking a hard and fast position on something like that.”

Plus, advertising throughout summer, rather than focusing on Australia Day, is an opportunity to sell more lamb.

As the ad draws to a close, Australians from all states are reunited. And a man atop a mountain of the destroyed border wall, cooking lamb on his barbeque, says: “We should celebrate this day every year”.


MLA’s summer lamb campaign will be appearing nationally across TV, digital, social and retail out-of-home. Media is being executed by UM, with earned media and owned social produced by One Green Bean.


Client – Meat & Livestock Australia
General Manager – Marketing and Insights: Nathan Low
Domestic Market Manager: Graeme Yardy
Brand Manager: Anna Sharp
Assistant Brand Manager: Krystina Batt

Creative Agency – The Monkeys, part of Accenture Interactive
Group CEO and Co-Founder: Mark Green
Managing Director: Matt Michael
Group Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder: Scott Nowell
Executive Creative Director: Vince Lagana
Creative Director: Scott Dettrick
Creative team: Harry Boothman & Joash Tham
Art Director OOH: Jonathan Rands
Business Strategy Director: Kit Lansdell
Group Content Director: Ciaran Miller-Stubbs
Content Director: Fizzy Keeble
Senior Content Manager: Ruth Peck
Senior Producers: Christina Wilmot & Penny Brown
Producer OOH: Will Haslingden
Design Lead: James Halliday
Senior Designer: Laura Ives

Production Company: Airbag
Director: Ariel Martin
Executive Producer: Alex Tizzard
Producer: Megan Ayers
Managing Partner: Adrian Bosich
DOP: Lachlan Milne

Edit House: ARC Edit
Editor: David Whittaker & Lucas Baynes
VFX: Airbag
Grade: Fergus Rotherham
Conform: White Chocolate

Music & Sound by Song Zu
Composer: Haydn Walker
Sound Designer: Simon Kane
Producer: Katrina Aquilia

Media agency – UM
Georgina Parchert – Connections Strategist
Jonny Day – Connections Design Director
Hayley Pyper – Client Director
Jenny Lam – Senior Partnerships Manager
Joshua Coles – Partnerships Executive

PR Agency – One Green Bean


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