The new lamb ad gets a “D” for effort, not for diversity-NewsCO

January 29, 2017

Some will argue it’s the best ad so far, and that’s probably true given that there isn’t much competition for the title – but it’s rife with cultural stereotypes, and not just of Indigenous Australians; French people eating cheese, stuffy British officers, Germans with beer, Maoris saying “bro”, and Chinese people with long beards, traditional garb and a box of fireworks…

To its credit, there are a few things worth giving the nod too, most notably having Indigenous characters in the lead and moving beyond an all-white cast. That probably isn’t that applause worthy in 2017, but whatever, it’s still something, and far be it from me to try to deny any Aboriginal actors getting roles on national television.

That said, in recent years the campaign has been trying to move beyond their traditional pattern of simply ignoring Aboriginal people and other minorities in order to be more inclusive. This, with questionable success.

This ‘effort’ sounds good in principle, unless, like me, you believe that the motivation has far more to do with selling lamb – not promoting diversity and inclusion.

The idea that we have a national ad campaign aimed at telling a version of Australian history where each new group that arrives in Australia simply ‘joins the party’ is simply something I just can’t swallow.

I would give it a bonus point for accuracy if the meat the English gave to the Aboriginal people was poisoned with smallpox or strychnine, but I guess that would distract from the core purpose of these ads: getting people to confuse eating meat with being patriotic. (Nod to Dave Hughes for countering this point with another ad campaign, also trying to sell us stuff, but at least aiming to counter the idea that eating meat is a particularly Australian thing to do).

 

The ad perhaps is a fitting theme for Australia Day: forget about or completely misrepresent Australian history and contemporary society, and buy stuff instead.

Enjoy your paid day off, buy a flag cape, buy some alcohol and get drunk, buy some lamb and have a BBQ, and complain about whoever you think isn’t ‘Australian enough’ or about those who choose not to celebrate ‘Australia Day’ and call the day Survival Day, Invasion Day, or a Day of Mourning.

Apart from a brief reference to Aboriginal people having been here “since forever”, the ad crams tens of thousands of years into a quick sound bite. The ad revels in the last 200 years, because apparently, that’s when pretty much anything worth talking about happened.

The attempt to include ‘boat people’ at the end, with the response: “aren’t we all boat people?”, does nothing to redeem the caricatures we’ve just witnessed.

Using sarcasm to say “we’re not racist” is probably the point.

An ad like this can’t lose from a marketing perspective. People who love it will share it and sing its praises, people who hate it will share it and point out its flaws, commentators like myself will comment on it guaranteeing that anyone who reads this and hasn’t seen the ad will watch it, if only so they can make sense of what I am saying. I’m okay with that thought because, for my part at least, I’m not trying to get anyone to boycott lamb or trying to stop anyone from watching the ad.

Love it or hate it, it is still worth a watch.

My goal is trying to get the date of Australia Day changed, and the blind patriotism that goes along with it reduced, not merely extended so that everyone else can be just as blindly patriotic to the notion of ‘Australianity’, or mateship, or ‘One Nation’ or whatever we are calling it these days.

I do however appreciate that all ads are trying to sell something, that is what they’re meant to do, but I think the MLA are trying too hard to tack on their newly discovered ‘sense of inclusivity’ to their core desire to sell more meat.

The idea of a group of marketing executives sitting a room thinking, “Hmmm, how can we make the controversy over Australia Day equal more profits for us?”, just turns me off my lunch.

I can picture the creative team patting each other on the back after coming up with the line, “we’re all boat people” and feeling particularly clever about co-opting a concept that many people have used for years now, albeit for more altruistic motives, namely to combat the term being used to denigrate asylum seekers.

The construct of ‘Australia Day’ is problematic enough for the Australia Day Council given the date that Australia chooses to hold its national day, but to take it one step further to try to sanitise the history of migration to Australian shores is outright impossible.

Justifying the existence of Australia Day being on the 26th of January in order to sell lamb to a more diverse customer base is just too convoluted a plan for my taste.

The only thing I can hope for when I watch that ad is that this will be the last Australia Day held on the 26th of January, and that any future attempts to profit from patriotism will not need to try so damn hard to make Australian history, or contemporary Australian society, appear much more inclusive than it actually is.

I’m sure many people will consider this ad to be a great step forward for representation in Australian media, but personally, I still remember their racist ads of recent years, and I am not buying that this attempted shift of focus has anything other to do with trying to sell more lamb, which I am also not buying.

Maybe I’d have been a bit kinder to this latest attempt if it was a standalone, and not just the next chapter of a series I already don’t like, written for an company I already don’t like, tied to a day that I do not like…

Just change the damn date already.

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