The Anthill Massive (ok, four of us) were heavily engaged in a ‘strategy session’ at a local watering house a few Fridays back when Lachy, our marketing man, made the following remark: “Is it just me or is the new VB ad totally underwhelming?”
All agreed. It is.
In fact, have you come across anyone (outside of the thousands of blokes who were actually in it) who thinks that it lives up to its hype? Then again, it was always going to be a tough gig stacked up against CUB’s powerhouse predecessor: The Big Ad. (Now that was a good advertisement.)
Before the round of beers was over (or maybe it was two rounds?), I’d pulled out my notepad and we were brainstorming the Top 10 Greatest Australian Television Commercials Ever.
Here they are (according to us):
THE ORIGINAL VB AD
From the days when men were ‘real’ men: They worked hard on the land and in industry, joined the army and spent countless hours watching sport. This original VB ad from the mid ’70s may appear basic to us now, but at least they kept the message simple. They knew their market, they concentrated on the brand and they even managed to make the narrative rhyme.
The aforementioned Big Ad for Carlton Draft, created by George Patterson and Partners (Melbourne), first aired in August 2005. It was massive in scale, executed with precision and elegance and, most importantly, it was humorous.
Favourite part: when the beer hits the stomach and begins to riot.
SLIP SLOP SLAP
One of the most successful of all Australian health campaigns, this early ’80s ad by the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria (now Cancer Council Victoria), featuring the ever memorable mascot ‘Sid the Seagull’, recruited high-level talent – Philip Adams (broadcaster), Peter Best (composer) and Alex Stitt (designer/animator) – to produce the campaign. It was an immediate hit and its message has very much become a part of the Australian psyche.
I LIKE AEROPLANE JELLY
You might be picturing the girl on the swing singing “I like Aeroplane Jelly”, but this iconic Aussie advertising jingle began before television, screening in the cinemas in the 1940s. Sure, it’s not the most logical plot line – a small aeroplane flies into a storm, gets scared, but finds floating plates of… Aeoroplane Jelly (which he likes, by the way). But when you think of jelly, which brand comes to mind first? Case closed.
Inspiring fear is not always an effective educational tool, but this 1987 AIDS awareness campaign, featuring the Grim Reaper bowling over families like ten pins, did more than anything else to educate Australians that AIDS was not a disease confined to sub-cultures – that it could strike down anyone who wasn’t careful.
LOUIE THE FLY
Louie the Fly, the unlikely spokesinsect of Australian household insecticide brand Mortein, buzzed straight from the rubbish tip to you in 1957. His TV career spanned 50 years, providing daily reminders for Australians (no strangers to flies) that they and their families could get sick unless they kept a can of Mortein on hand at all times.
Another iconic jingle promoting another iconic Australian product, Vegemite (when it was still an Australian-owned brand) focused on aligning its brand with happy, healthy Aussie kids (and circus acts, in this particular example).
LIFE. BE IN IT
The ‘Life. Be in it.’ organisation has been encouraging Australians to get out of the house and exercise for 30 years. For those of us who stare at a computer all day, it’s hard to watch this pre-Norm ad even now and not feel a pang of guilt about not doing more outdoorsy stuff.
Holeproof, one of Australia’s leading clothing companies, shocked a few people with this mischievous ad for Ant Pantz underwear. The creative brief was to make a conservative product sexy. Enter Rex, the Echidna.
Who could forget this Yellow Pages ad from 1992, featuring a burly Scotsman trying to find someone to fix his G-O-G-G-O mobile (not the Dart)? It was a big hit for Telstra’s Yellow Pages, but an even bigger hit for the Scotsman, who went on to land an advertising gig with Shannon’s Insurance (which led to a legal stoush).
I spotted this Scotsman crossing the road while I was waiting at lights in St Kilda a couple of years ago. I pointed him out to my friend sitting beside me, which the Scotsman saw and gave a big wave, which we returned. Just like the ad.
Notable Aussie ads that just missed out:
First National – “Boardings” (Cindy)
The Drug Offensve – The treehouse (Julie)
Decore Shampoo – The shower song (Ed Pitts)
Nobby’s Nuts – Nibble Nobby’s Nuts (Diane Falzon)
Toyota – “Bugger” (Carolyn Deigan)
Tourism Australia – “The Wonders Down Under” – Paul Hogan (Will Turbet)
TAC – “Pictures of you” (Will Turbet)
Tourism Victoria – “Daylesford. Lead a Double Life” (Scott Seymour)
Colgate Fluorigard – Mrs Marsh’s chalk (Paul Ryan)