Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has launched its highly-anticipated annual summer Australian Lamb campaign, pulling a 180 on its old campaign messaging in the process.
The advert, which launched across free to air and subscription TV nationally on 5 January, imagines an alternate reality that sees people banished to infinite cultural exile for being “Un-Australian”.
“Un-Australian” offences include eating a pie with a knife and fork, not knowing the lyrics to Khe Sanh, dobbing on someone, buying a beer with zero percent alcohol or watching a show with subtitles.
At first, the ad appears to play into old stereotypes from Australian Lamb campaigns of yore.
In 2005, sports commentator and ‘Lambassador’ Sam Kekovich first berated the “creeping tide of un-Australiansim” in a TVC that mimicked a prime ministerial address. Sitting in front of an Australian flag, Kekovich barked out a list of items that were “eroding our great traditions”, from tofu sausages enjoyed by “long-haired dole-bludging types” to brightly coloured thongs with flowers on them.
When Kekovich himself appears in Un-Australian exile in the 2023 campaign, things start to take a twist. Nearly everyone and everything begins to populate ‘Un-Australia’, making exile look more like paradise. It’s suddenly an ad about just how ridiculous accusations of un-Australianism have become.
“Looks like we’re all a bit un-Australian,” reflects one of the banished.
“Guess that’s what makes us Australian,” another replies.
How do we get back? “Why would you want to?” the ad concludes.
“As ever, this campaign is topical, tongue in cheek and positions lamb as the meat of choice to unite us,” says MLA’s domestic market manager Graeme Yardy.
“The use of ‘Un-Australian’ has got out of control, everything from how you eat your pie to having a wedding on Grand Final day is on the chopping block. Chances are you’ll be viewed as ‘Un-Australian’ by someone! What makes Australia great is that we celebrate our differences. Lamb is famous for bringing Aussies together, so what better way to cut through this division and help us come together over these collective differences than with a good lamb BBQ.”
Keeping up with changing cultural tides
While this year’s campaign does not explicitly address MLA’s own contribution to the ‘Un-Australian’ cultural narrative, it acknowledges its mistakes with a wink and a nod, knowing just how well-embedded these yearly campaigns are in recent Australian memory.
MLA has steadily back-pedalled on the, at times, downright racist, homophobic and hyper-masculine Australian cultural identity celebrated in its ads for up to a decade.
In the 2013 campaign, AFL players in tutus and Kekovich getting a manicure represented un-Australianisms.
Always topical, Kekovich bemoaned cricketers sending text messages to “English trollops” in 2006. In the original campaign, he can be heard saying, “If I hear another person say thong, when they mean those swimming costumes puncy Brazilian blokes wear up their bums, I’ll do my block”. Yikes.
The white male sports Lambassador has faded into the background in recent years in favour of faces that are more representative of Australia’s ethnic and gender diversity. MLA has even acknowledged the contentiousness of Australia Day, launching campaigns for summer rather than specifically for 26 January.
The Australian Lamb campaigns have, albeit slowly, swapped division for inclusivity, and even dropped the cheap shots at vegans in its attempts to get Aussies to ‘Share the Lamb’.