Yesterday, Alan Clarke over at Buzzfeed ran a story about a leaked draft script for next year’s ‘Australia Day’ lamb ad. It contained a bizarre and bewildering attempt to rewrite the history of the 26th of January as beginning ‘60,000(ish) years ago’ (?) with Aboriginal people arriving in Australia in canoes (?!?) and having a barbecue to commemorate that day every year (???!!!??), even going so far as to comment on behalf of Indigenous people ‘does the exact date matter?’ (All the ? & !s)
There was so much wrongness packed into such a small script that for a second I almost forgot that the purpose of this long running and highly criticized ad campaign is simply about increasing the sale of lamb.
Any campaign aimed at appealing to the attitudes wrapped up in the 26th of January must, by its very nature, either aim to exploit the misguided attitudes of patriotism and 'Australianness' or call for increased diversity and understanding about the complex and problematic nature of having this date as our national holiday.
Expecting that PR firms would be able to smoothly transition from one to the other was probably always fraught with disaster, and it seems worth noting that we probably shouldn’t look to Meat & Livestock Australia for leadership when it comes to addressing the underlying problems with our national day.
Blind patriotism is relatively easy to exploit, whether it is for an ad campaign or for an election campaign.
Blind patriotism is relatively easy to exploit, whether it is for an ad campaign or for an election campaign. Diversity and inclusion however, requires much more depth and nuance and probably shouldn’t be done for the main purpose of trying to help lamb sales compete with beef and chicken on a day when many people are holding barbecues. It is not a task that readily lends itself to the thought processes of marketing and PR people, who traditionally are more focused on market research, sales targets, reaching target demographics, and trying to win awards for being clever.
I’m not saying that advertisers and PR firms shouldn’t aim to do better when it comes to diversity and representation; there is huge scope for improvement when it comes to casting, representation, and inclusion. What I am saying though is that it probably isn’t a great idea to try to exploit these issues to sell meat to us.
And if the Meat and Livestock Australia are interested in promoting diversity in their advertising practices then I am going to become curious about how well they incorporate these principles into their own business structure; their employment strategies, diversity within their board of directors and other governance structures, Reconciliation Action Plans etc.
If it turns out that they are doing better at embracing diversity and inclusion than a quick glance at their board of directors would imply, then sure, they should definitely strive to include this in their advertising campaigns as well.
If it turns out that they are doing better at embracing diversity and inclusion than a quick glance at their board of directors would imply, then sure, they should definitely strive to include this in their advertising campaigns as well. If, however, they are not actually walking the talk, then they probably shouldn’t talk at all, or at the very least learn how to crawl before trying to run campaigns like this. Especially not when the core purpose of such a campaign is not increasing diversity and inclusion, but instead is the seemingly impossible task of making lamb the meat of choice at Australian barbecues.
As my colleague, Sophie Verass, recently memed – Stop trying to make lamb on Australia Day happen. It’s not going to happen!