BOTW: Good morning, Boomertown - MLA's lamb campaign shows a good strategy can work for decades
Welcome to Unmade’s first Best of the Week for 2024, written in sunny Evandale, Tasmania, home after a road trip that took in everything from the Big Golden Guitar in Tamworth to the newly resurrected Big Spud in Sassafras.
There’s a Deloitte study crying out to be written on the marketing value of Australia’s Big Things.
And speaking of Australian things, this week saw the latest instalment of Meat & Livestock Australia’s latest summer campaign for lamb. It’s great.
That makes it the 20th year in the row that lamb has had something to say about the state of Australia.
Along the way MLA’s summer campaign has evolved though agencies, marketers and, most impressively, tone. It deserves to be seen as one of the greatest campaign strategies of all time. For longevity and reinvention it stands up against anything else globally. It’s been the foundation for some great individual pieces of advertising.
MLA’s ownership of summer started life with Sam Kekovich’s Australia Day address in 2005, created by BMF, and targeting unAustralianism.
This year’s effort from The Monkeys, who’ve been on the MLA roster since 2014, completes a pivot away from Australia Day which began back in 2017.
In 2005, ex-footballer Kekovich was the personification of blokey, red meat eating Australia. His deadpan address was an appropriation of the scripted monologues he’d already been doing on radio and television.
Crafted by BMF’s legendary cofounder Warren Brown, the first ad tapped into the zeitgeist, and created a bigger conversation. Even in that first year, vegetarians outraged about being labelled unAustralian, turned it into a news story.
That was to be one of the secret weapons of the MLA’s summer campaign in its best years - a big idea that crosses over and gets talked about in the media in a disproportionately large way compared to the media budget. It helped that the ad launched in the quiet news period of January.
Much of the framework was there from the beginning, put in place by MLA’s David Thomason, who passed away nine years ago. Thomason was also behind the Sam Neill red meat ads for MLA.
But the biggest challenge for the campaign was the cultural one: It’s all very well making yourself an intrinsic part of Australia Day. But what happens when Australia Day becomes something many Australians no longer want to celebrate, because of the divisions it causes for Indigenous Australians?
The answer to that strategic problem came in reframing the strategy: It would no longer be an Australia Day campaign, but a summer campaign, launching well before January 26.
The result was one of the best ads of all time, the unifying 2017 “Celebrate Australia” ad, created by The Monkeys and wonderfully directed by Paul Middleditch. Even now, I get chills watching it. It led culture. That was the moment the Australia Day date debate went mainstream.
Done with humour, it was a strategic Houdini act. From being in a three-legged race with the fading institution of Australia Day, lamb was now on the right side of the conversation. In the context of this week’s tired cultural wars over whether Woolies will be selling flags, imagine if MLA was still plodding along with an “eat meat on Australia Day” message.
MLA’s summer campaigns have become a reflection on issues that sum up life in Australia. They examine the divide, then offer lamb as the solution.
Which brings us to this year’s campaign, which recognises the huge social and economic impact of the generation gap, which has created a nation of landlords and renters.
One again, it exploded beyond paid media. The first time I saw the ad this week was on Reddit, rather than the trade press. There were also some terrific gags, including the ultimate generational indicator: a propensity to read printed newspapers. Slay.
So many great campaigns end too early - usually when a new marketer or agency arrives and proposes a new direction.
The Monkeys and MLA have demonstrated that a strategy can be reinvented. The campaign feels that it can go on for years, as long as the creative team can tap into the issue of the year and offer funny new ways of offering lamb as the solution. That’s not as easy as it sounds, by the way.
Individual successes of the campaign have been because the teams at BMF and then The Monkeys have created some great ads over the years. But its longevity is because the dozens of individuals who’ve had a say over the years have built the strategy. As a result, it’s not just Boomertown where lamb is still relevant.
Index dips at end of week
The Unmade Index finished the week almost exactly where it began, with low trading volumes contributing to a sense that the action at the big end of town is yet to resume.
Yesterday the index, our measurement of Australia’s listed media and marketing companies, dipped by 0.58% to 616.9 points, a similar fall to the previous day’s modest growth.
Yesterday’s outlier was Aspermont which lost 11.11% for no obvious reason. It follows a similar unexplained fall for The Market (formerly The Market Herald) which slumped by a remarkable 25% on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, one of the few stocks in the green on Friday was Seven West Media, up by 4%.
Time to leave you to your Saturday.
We’ll be back with more soon.
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Have a great day.
Publisher - Unmade