After being yelled at by media personality and ‘Lambassador’ Sam Kekovich over the last decade, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has released a much more inclusive advert, focusing on celebrating the diversity of Australia and how eating lamb can unite us all (with the obvious exception of those of us who don’t eat meat)
The newly released ‘You'll Never Lamb Alone’ is a dramatic change from watching Kekovich blast people who don’t embody our country’s disappointing mainstream attitudes of say, that bigoted uncle who calls activists “tree-huggers”, that blokey ex-boyfriend who called your gay friend a “ponce”, drivers who have a 'Love it or Leave' bumper sticker or people who think that because you’re a non-Indigenous white Australian, you’re by default comfortable with Australia Day.
"It’s an even bigger turn-around of ... their previous advertising campaign wholly based on glorifying Survival Day (Australia Day) and the white Australian population that it serves."
It’s an even bigger turn-around of MLA’s original sentiment towards Indigenous Australia, with their previous advertising campaign wholly based on glorifying Survival Day (Australia Day) and the white Australian population that it serves. Even when the Lambassador was ditched for SBS’ Lee Lin earlier this year, ‘Operation Boomerang’ was lambasted online as an insensitive hijacking of Aboriginal culture used to amplify the celebration of a day that is quickly falling out of fashion for more and more Australians.
As Operation 'Boo!'-merang became the most complained about ad of 2016 thus far, it appears as though MLA have finally listened to the blacklash and created an ad with a far more inclusive message and to cast back it up.
Olympian Cathy Freeman, rugby league legend Greg Inglis and model Samantha Harris play key roles in the short feature and are joined by other culturally diverse people, creating a cast of a far more accurate representation of Australia than a breakfast television program - it’s as though MLA left no ABS census form unturned. Kyrgyzstanians and Pakistanians, a gay couple, a hearing impaired woman and even Greek-Australian transgender comedian, Jordan Raskopoulos all stand with Indian-Australian actor, Arka Das to advocate this so-called non-discriminatory meat.
The video ends with a further reparation of MLA’s ongoing disregard of first peoples and the sensitivities around European invasion, with Das asking the crowd of different linguists, genders and physically able, “who was here first?” to which Freeman and Inglis reply, “Aaaah, that’d be us”.
There’s a lot to like about this ad beyond the celebrity appearances. The refreshing number of non-white faces on screen is pretty ground-breaking for a country that only had their first non-white winner take home the highest award in national television just this year. And while a commercial made in 2016 probably shouldn’t be considered avant-garde for including sign language in its script or one that makes an effort to use the correct pronouns for gender diverse people, MLA and their creative agency 'The Monkeys' have clearly made something special for people who still receive seldom attention from contemporary mainstream media.
But ironically, these are same people who were completely ignored by the makers of this barbecue Utopia as recent as several months ago. As MLA gets a metaphorical two-thumbs up from the public and a literal thousand or so on social media for painting a picture of wider Australia, there something irritatingly tokenistic about the company’s quick change-in-attitude of accepting difference, social inclusion and all Australians living together as one big happy lamb-eating family.
Going from this:
It’s like congratulating Karl Stefanovic on his LGBTQ+ media award nomination, an achievement for apologising for offending a group of vulnerable people. Should we really be patting Meat & Livestock Australia on the back after hearing them publicly marginalise people in a way that drew nearly 1,000 complaints in the last six months? And unlike Stefanovic’s very touching and sincere public apology on TV, MLA hasn't really addressed their 10 years of promoting an omitting style of national patriotism on our screens, and instead, just commented on the fact that there have been too many "perky white males" on them.
Should we really be patting Meat & Livestock Australia on the back after hearing them publicly marginalise people in a way that drew nearly 1,000 complaints in the last six months?
If any other company made this gesture – say, one who doesn’t have a reputation for appropriating Aboriginal culture – perhaps it would be easier to be like, “Cool, Look! Cathy Freeman and Samantha Harris eating lamb!”. It would also probably make for less criticism of its overall message too, whereby the fundamental aspects of diversity are disappointingly ignored, like privilege and disadvantage. By MLA trying to make a point that white people are also ‘People of Colour’ and we should ‘stop talking about people of difference’, this controversial company is yet again, failing to acknowledge the reality of equality and unity, and the reason why so many “perky white males” are on our screens. The inclusion of the phrase ‘spacist’ also seems to be a mocking stab at all of the complaints that seem to have inspired the new direction in advertising.
While it's nice to swallow the idea that MLA’s cuts are now made from Baa-Baa Rainbow Sheep, when such promotion comes from a company who just last year profiled Captain Cook as a fantasy honored guest at what would be Australia’s most ideal dinner party, it’s hard to get rid of the bad taste of Australian lamb… ads.
Ultimately the goal here is to sell meat and if companies can do so by creating a positive social message spoken in sign and presented by an ethnically diverse host, then great. But if lamb sales are to be made off the back of something as important as social equality and issues of racial and cultural acceptance, Australia should see consistency in such a message. About 10 years should do it.
For more discussion on Meat & Livestock Australia's new advert, tune into The Point, tonight at 9pm on NITV