Meat and Livestock Australia’s lamb ads have always been kind of fantastic. I say this as a vegetarian, and with full (amused) awareness of the controversy that hit Lee Chin’s recent paean to barbequed meat. But even vegans have to agree – this latest lamb ad is something else.
The 90-second youtube ad (cut to 30 seconds for tellie) opens to perky white male Luke Jacobz telling viewers that actually, there are way too many perky white males on Aussie screens, contributing to an overall lack of diversity. Walking past a tree, Jacobz is miraculously replaced by Bengali-Australian actor Arka Das. Das then leads the viewer on a whirlwind one-take tour of Australian diversity. He waves, smiles and chats to an all-star cast of famous Aussies, and an incredible line-up diverse every day people. The audience is introduced to Aboriginal Australians, as well as immigrants from all over, to different religions, different disabilities, and a gorgeous nuclear family of two dads and a bub. We see Das speaking in Auslan with a deaf woman, and meet a line up of different kinds of white (“white whites, translucent whites, beige whites, red whites, and dark whites (who are darker than the light-dark guys” – this last is a pointed comment on Andrew Bolt’s complaint about the pale skin colour of some Aboriginal Australians). We’re introduced to trans comedian Jordan Raskopoulos. ‘She’s Greek,’ we’re told.
But the real mic drop moment? At the end of the ad, with the lamb now ready to eat, Das looks around and asks ‘Who was here first?’ Kathy Freeman and Greg Inglis step forward to reply ‘That would be us.’
BOOM. Fade to black.
Now, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is known for cheeky ads which sometimes flare into virality and controversy. Earlier this year, Lee Chin and Sam Kekovitch starred as ‘lambassadors’ and scoffed at a bearded Aussie Brooklynite who identified as vegan (horror of horrors!) before blowtorching his table. MLA got lambasted (see what I did there?) for this and seems to have learned a lesson.
This latest offering is way more user-friendly and less likely to incite millennials into meat-withdrawal induced social media rages. I mean, the tagline is ‘Lamb. The meat that doesn’t discriminate.’ and the hashtag? #unitedwelamb.
In fact, in so far as getting millennial attention, this ad hits the nail on the head. It, like us, is as progressive as all heck.
According to Andrew Howie, marketing director of MLA, ‘Australian lamb’s heartland are baby boomers who grew up with a Sunday roast, but there’s changing multicultural mix and we need to tap into that…’ In an interview with Mumbrella, Howie made it clear that the way to do this was by supporting and promoting Aussie diversity – something that is incredibly important to younger Australians.
We really thought it was important to highlight that when you watch TV and what you see in the broader media does not reflect what Australia truly looks like.
Really what we were going for was to try to showcase as much diversity as possible. Why are we still talking about not talking about diversity?
It’s quite sad that we have to run a campaign to say ‘hey Australia, you know what, we are really diverse and we should be accepting of everything and everyone’…”
The ad came only weeks after Screen Australia released a study entitled ‘Seeing ourselves: Reflections on diversity in Australian TV drama’ which showed just how grossly underrepresented non-white Australians were on our TV screens. At the same time, according to MLA research and 2011 census data, 92% of Aussies are proud to live in a diverse and multicultural nation, rendering the disparity between real-life Australia and TV Australia all the more confusing and weird.
Almost as confusing and weird as that is, it strikes some of us as even weirder that lamb is suddenly the frontier product fighting the good fight for multiculturalism, equality, Aboriginal recognition and diversity. But hey, apparently lamb is the hero we deserve.
That minor incongruity aside, MLA is doing this whole hero thing the right way. The lamb message isn’t just to give white viewers a pat on the shoulder. Oh no. It will also be promoted across ethnic print press and in-language social media, including WeChat and Weibo (huge amongst Australia’s ethnic Chinese). There will also be braille outdoor ads and targeted ads in Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese. This might be a risky move, but according to Howie: ‘We’ve crossed what could potentially be a couple of taboos by running ads in other languages like Arabic and we are not going to apologise for doing that,’ he said. ’There is probably a small part of the population that will be uncomfortable with that, but that’s part of the reason this campaign is important to run.’
Take that, Baby Boomers.
The message is also being brought to the table with a partnership with a start-up called Feed Up (basically the Airbnb of food) and a month of ‘Lamb get-togethers’ run by the likes of George Calombaris in pop-up dining venues. Aside from being progressive as heck, it’s a great example of an ingenious multi-platform campaign.
Amongst millennials, lamb has a hard battle to fight. A 2013 study rated it the third most popular meat in Australia after chicken and beef , and with more and more of us young’uns getting off the meat train altogether, it’s not an easy sell.
But ads like this go a long way in changing our minds. Sure, we vegetarians and vegans won’t be won over, but you can bet the next time the guys next door throw a barbie, there’ll be a lot more lamb on the grill.