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Meat & Livestock Australia’s annual extravaganza is something of an institution, with the industry marketing body having continually pushed the boundaries on Australia’s political and social priorities. Since 1999 the brand has tapped into the country’s cultural zeitgeist, using topical and irreverent humor to keep lamb front-of-mind during peak barbecuing season.
But humor is tricky, particularly when it attempts to make light of topical issues or sensitive political matters (international trade relations between Australia and France, anyone?). The fast-moving nature of the pandemic meant nobody involved in the ad’s production would’ve been able to predict the havoc Omicron would wreak just a few short weeks later.
January in Australia today looks very different to the one MLA would’ve envisaged when the idea for the ad was initially conceived. With supermarket shelves across the country stripped bare as a result of supply chain issues, will Australians even be able to put lamb on plates come the national holiday on January 26th? Would MLA have taken a different approach had they known about the events which were about to transpire?
What these questions fail to recognize, however, is that advertising pays its biggest dividends in the long-term — particularly big, emotional spectacles like the ones Australian Lamb has continually produced over the years. These campaigns don’t just impact people’s likelihood to put lamb on plates during the summer months; rather, they keep the meat front-of-mind all year round. And just as importantly, the cumulative effects of a consistent campaign platform means impact compounds with each yearly installment, incrementally strengthening predisposition over time.
So, with that in mind, how did the ad land with Aussies? The short answer: extremely well.
The quintessentially Australian, tongue-in-cheek humor caught viewers’ attention and put a smile on their faces — a similar emotional crescendo to last year’s ‘Make Lamb, Not Walls’ which effectively utilized satire to lambast Australia’s divided states. People enjoyed that the ad was brave enough to make light of a range of topical issues (both locally and internationally) without coming across as forced or mean-spirited. Subtle jibes such as “People learn the names of state premiers” and “Last one there is only a billionaire” had viewers in raptures.
In the same way John Lewis’ pioneering work has led to it “owning” the UK’s festive season, Australian Lamb has carved out similar ownership for itself of Australia Day. That it’s a big and provocative production launched in the weeks leading up to the national holiday instantly cues who the likely advertiser is in viewers’ minds.
Further to this, where MLA gets things right year-in-year-out is positioning lamb as the hero behind the story’s uplifting conclusion. Lamb acting as the catalyst behind people coming together means the ad doesn’t need to spend any time waffling on about how juicy and succulent it is, or the health benefits associated with eating red meat.
Instead, the strategy attaches favorable thoughts and feelings with lamb, which in-turn generates predisposition toward it. While some felt it veered more toward a tourism ad than a lamb ad, the majority couldn’t mistake the over-glorification of the humble lamb chop — or Sam Kekovich — as being for anything/anyone else.
As the highest profile touchpoint in MLA’s yearly marketing calendar, the campaign plays a crucial role in differentiating Australian Lamb from other alternatives. ‘The Lost Country of the Pacific’ successfully achieved this through the ad’s fun and irreverent tone.
This year’s execution also left people feeling more positive than in 2021, with optimism around putting Australia “back on the map” being an idea people connected with. Key to this was feelings of pride, with the ad showing everyone coming together again for a big Aussie barbecue, celebrating local produce, and how Australia remains a desirable location for many around the world — including Australians themselves.
Speak to consumers; everything else is innuendo and hearsay. Regularly testing creative provides a reminder for marketers — and their agency partners — that their view of the world is often very different to the mainstream. So, while agency professionals might see the work as being tired, cliché, and contrived — it’s often because they’re so absorbed in the industry and the brand’s previous work, that they can’t see the forest for the trees.
It also means internal reservations can be assessed without bias — there likely would’ve been concern about smoke from the barbecues which formed a lamb chop-shaped haze (visible from space) being connected to the tragic bushfires which ravaged the country less than two years ago. However, not one person in our research linked these two together.
Australian Lamb commercials are a shining beacon for Australia’s creative industry and should be celebrated. 2022’s effort also provides a reminder for marketers that short-term effects are only ever a small part of the story when assessing a campaign’s impact — particularly when investing in emotion and storytelling.
This is a self-funded case study using our Ad Testing solution.