Is it time for MLA to move on from Kekovich and co? Seven's hot mic faux pas
This year's Meat & Livestock summer campaign is a miss. But the organisation would be crazy to give up on the platform
Welcome to Unmade, mostly written while you were sleeping, on Wednesday morning.
Happy National Hot Tea Day.
Today: The Monkeys deliver MLA a dud, and newsreaders Rebecca Maddern and Mike Amor go off script.
Kekovich and co
It’s funny how different things looked a few weeks ago.
As I was setting out for my current UK trip back in November, it felt like the worse was over in Australia. After a delayed start, vaccination numbers were growing, and it was once again legal for ordinary Australians to travel overseas.
What was not on the cards at that point were supply chain shortages emptying the supermarket shelves and the ambulance service being overwhelmed as we headed out of the summer break. Reading this morning’s Tele makes it feel like next month I’ll be coming back to a different country to the one I left.
A lot has occurred in a few weeks. As we are now painfully aware, it turns out that everybody’s favourite failed Tourism Australia MD neglected to plan for the moment when the nation transitioned to needing self testing, and did not organise supply.
That seems like such an unlikely level of incompetence that it’s understandable why those trying to make long term business plans did not factor it in.
I suspect those business people include the marketing team at Meat & Livestock Australia, when they were working on this year’s Summer campaign with The Monkeys. The best marketing campaign in the world isn’t going to put lamb on barbecues on Australia Day if it’s not on the supermarket shelves in the first place.
It’s one reason this year’s ad, once again created by The Monkeys, is a miss.
The tone - which they’ve often got so right in the past - is designed for an alternative timeline where an optimistic Australia is already well into the process of reconnecting with the rest of the world, not in a frustrated quasi-lockdown.
Instead, the world has been watching (and it was the main story on the BBC’s TV and radio bulletins here in the UK too, by the way) while Australian bungles the Novak Djokovic visa saga, while drawing global attention to the purgatory of the country’s detained refugees.
That’s not a great week to be dropping a Zeitgeist-surfing, upbeat marketing campaign that fails to capture the actual Zeitgeist.
In retrospect, the wonder is that it’s taken 18 years to occur.
Since BMF created that first Sam Kekovich Australia Day address in 2005, MLA has created a wonderful marketing platform that any marketer would envy. Through consistently great work by BMF and then The Monkeys, MLA earned the right to address the question of what it means to be Australian.
When the campaign first began under the late David Thomason nearly two decades ago, Kekovich’s persona and world view was closer to middle Australia.
As the blokey, boofy world of AFL began to feel more anachronistic, the campaign skilfully moved on, keeping bit parts for Kekovich, but shooting for bigger targets while moving beyond Australia Day.
In 2017, came what was, in my view, the best Australian ad of the decade.
That work celebrated multiculturalism and inclusivity, put the product at the centre of the message and still managed to be funny.
And it contributed to the national debate by moving on the conversation about January 26. Remember, that ad landed ten months before Triple J decided to move Hottest 100 away from Australia Day.
As the director of the ad, the brilliant Paul Middleditch, said at the time, it was one of the proudest moments of his career.
But that type of history also creates a weight of expectation. The value of the platform is that the arrival of the MLA Summer campaign is widely anticipated. It usually derives more impact from media coverage than with its paid advertising budget. As somebody (probably astroturfing on behalf of The Monkeys) pointed out on the Campaign Brief comment thread this week, this is a campaign that wins effectiveness awards year after year.
Which brings me to the headline at the top of this edition. Is it time for MLA to go in another direction?
The answer to newspaper headlines that ask a rhetorical question is almost always no, by the way.
That’s the case here. No, they should not drop the platform.
Sometimes in pursuit of the new, brands give up amazing platforms too easily. VB was razzle dazzled into giving up “Hard earned thirst” by their agency Droga 5 back in 2009, before returning to it three years later, when the business switched to Clemenger BBDO Melbourne.
And Clemenger BBDO Sydney persuaded Hungry Jack’s to ditch “The burgers are better” in 2011, for the more feeble “Hungry Jack’s makes it better”. That misstep took 14 months to reverse.
The same goes for MLA. If the campaign had dropped without the weight of expectation that comes with it, I suspect it would have been better received. Although it was more laboured this year, there were still one or two great lines. It did indeed take a pandemic for everybody to learn the names of the state premiers. If, by now, we’d actually been in our happy place, the ad might well have worked better - it was as well produced as ever.
If you’ve got a platform that has a place within the culture then you don’t give it up after one miss, you do it better next time.
A talk show for Maddern?
As I was finishing this morning’s newsletter an hour or so ago, I did a quick live interview with ABC Melbourne to discuss what is quickly becoming the media story of the day.
Rebecca Maddern has had an eventful return to Seven News in Melbourne. Her hot mic conversation with co-host Mike Amor about Novak Djokovic spread fast on Twitter last night.
The conversation occurred off air, but - much like the Jacketgate incident at Nine - the footage was leaked.
Although Maddern was forthright - her view is that Djokovic is a “lying, sneaky, arsehole” - I’m not sure this will be damaging for her in the long term.
Jacketgate was bad for Amber Sherlock because it showed her behaving unpleasantly towards a colleague. In this case, viewers have simply learned what Maddern and Amos actually think, and I suspect many of them would agree. It may even prove to be good publicity for Maddern’s return to the network, even if she might want to rethink any plans for a holiday in Serbia in the near future.
However, there is a trust issue in the Seven newsroom. Whereas the Jacketgate recording circulated internally, then to the wider industry, before eventually landing in Mumbrella’s lap, this appears to have been deliberately leaked.
Unmade Index - back in the red
Australia’s media and marketing stocks continues their lacklustre start to 2022 yesterday, with The Unmade Index dropping by more than 1%. By contrast, the ASX All Ords was down 0.7%.
Pureprofile saw the biggest fall, down more than 3%, while Ooh Media and Seven were the only two stocks that grew their share price yesterday.
Time to let you go about your day. Before I do, just a reminder that I’m asking you to fill out a one-question survey to let me know how you think we’re doing with Unmade. You can do so via this link.
Have a great Wednesday.
Proprietor - Unmade