Lamb chops and school shorts: will 2017 be the year diversity breaks into mainstream marketing?

MLA’s 2017 lamb ad and a Target catalogue have sparked discussions on diversity in marketing this week, with each representing and celebrating diversity in Australia.

The 2017 instalment of Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) annual lamb ad celebrates our multicultural history, as Indigenous Australian barbecue hosts greet the ‘First Fleet’ and other waves of immigration by Dutch, French, German, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Serbian, Kiwi and others. The ad then begs the question “aren’t we all boat people?”

Target’s recent catalogue, features a mother wearing a hijab, has inspired praise and criticism on social media for its representation of cultural and religious diversity.  

target catalog

While cultural minority groups have featured in marketing for a long time – the Government of New South Wales has run the Multicultural Marketing Awards since 1990 – campaigns featuring cultural minorities have mainly been aimed only at those specific segments of the community. Both the MLA ad and Target catalogue, on the other hand, are for wider audiences.




Many events in 2016 saw immigration, marriage equality, disability and other sociocultural issues play a major role in Australian and world politics, portrayed in both positive and negative light depending on the source.

But how did diversity fare in marketing and advertising in 2016? And, beyond the Twittersphere,  what do people in Australia really think about it?

In a Marketing’s survey, conducted in partnership with our content partner SSI and featured in June/July 2016’s ‘The Love Issue’, we asked 1026 participants how important it was for advertising to represent the diversity of the Australian population across several demographic factors.

In the survey results, participants felt that it was most important for advertising to represent gender diversity and age diversity. They also felt these areas were well represented in media already.

Disability presented the largest disparity. It was rated as one of the most important, with 52% of respondents saying it is very important for advertising to represent diversity in the area, but only 18% said it was represented very well.

48% of respondents said ethnicity is very important, with 21% saying it is very well represented, and when it comes to diversity and religion, 34% list it as very important, with only 14% saying it is very well represented in Australian advertising.

diversity in advertising grid




This year’s summer lamb campaign is significant in not just the political message but the fact it doesn’t mention Australia Day at all. Is it to encourage increased usage occasions? Or a reaction to the growing ‘change the date’ sentiment surrounding 26 January, the day the First Fleet arrived in Australia in 1788? Perhaps both.

“As a brand, Lamb stands for unity,” says Andrew Howie, group marketing manager at MLA. “We should be able to celebrate this great country every day of the year.”

The ad features appearances from long-serving ‘Lambassador’ Sam Kekovich, athlete Cathy Freeman, rugby star Wendell Sailor, celebrity chef Poh Ling Yeow, cricketer Adam Gilchrist and LGBTQI comedian Rhys Nicholson.

Last year’s ‘Operation Boomerang’ celebrated Australia as a global nation in a slightly different way, showing Lee Lin Chin and ‘Lambassador’ Sam Kekovich overseeing the delivery of lamb to Australian expats in various locations around the world.


Many successful ad campaigns in 2016 came with a messages of inclusion, equal opportunity and diversity, and 2017 looks to fare no differently. It may even see brands further push the envelope and represent more of the true cross-section of Australia in mass-market marketing and advertising.

Here are some highlights of content related to diversity in marketing from 2016:



Ben Ice
BY Ben Ice ON 13 January 2017
  • Kathie

    Would love to see an ad agency take on the issue around Authentic Casting on TV and Film screens. Is this an area everyone is too shy to get involved in? Meryl Streep highlighted the issue this week, can we build on this and start asking the question….why don’t we see more people with disability in Home and Away, or portrayed in our movies. 25% of Australians identify as someone with a disability but, as Ben highlights in the figures in this article, there is definitely not that type of representation out there.

    • Catia Malaquias

      This is exactly the work that we have been doing at Starting With Julius ( and why we reached out to Kmart Australia and Target Australia. We are hoping that more brands will follow their lead. You can read my comments here:

      • Kathie

        And the work Starting with Julius is doing is definitely to be applauded and yes, Catia I’ve seen the piece on Pro Bono – it’s great!
        But I still believe we can go further. We need to see people with disability portrayed as everyday characters in TV and Film – and more importantly those characters played by actors with disability themselves rather than actors cripping up. Series like Barracuda and Offspring have done this well, and Kate Hood has started on Neighbours….so hopefully this trend will continue.