Faaez Samadi
Jan 19, 2017

On the lamb: MLA's much-anticipated Australia Day ad again courts controversy

The Monkeys CEO tells Campaign Asia-Pacific he hopes the biggest lamb ad yet will move the national conversation on diversity forward.

On the lamb: MLA's much-anticipated Australia Day ad again courts controversy

Anticipation over the Meat & Livestock Association’s Australia Day ad promoting lamb has become an annual event, and one that often stokes controversy. The organisation’s message ‘you’ll never lamb alone’ has taken on various guises that have shocked and amused in various quantities.

Scenes have ranged from attacking a vegan’s bowl of tofu with a flamethrower, to action movie-esque rescuing of Australians abroad to bring them home to eat Australian lamb.

In every case over the past few years, the advert has gone viral and fuelled huge media coverage and social media discussion. This year’s MLA ad focuses on Australia’s diversity, but also makes a reference to “boat people”, a local term for asylum seekers, which is a hot-button issue in Australia.

Campaign Asia-Pacific spoke to Mark Green, CEO and co-founder of creative agency The Monkeys, about the thinking behind this year’s ad, and the response to it. So far, the ad has achieved 792 pieces of media coverage and 7.5 million views.

How long have you worked for MLA? Is this your first Australia Day ad?

We have worked with the MLA for three years and this is our third campaign leading up to Australia Day.

Where did the idea come from? What was the driver behind it?

The MLA Lamb brand aims to bring people together.  It’s the meat that stands for unity and inclusiveness. The idea ‘You’ll never lamb alone’ has been going for three years and most recently we did a campaign that celebrated Australia’s diversity. The campaign was universally loved winning the top gong at the 2016 Australian Multicultural Marketing Awards. This campaign was a follow up to that.

Given the star appearances in it, is this the biggest budget MLA ad so far?

No the budget is in line with previous years and it’s really not as much as everyone thinks. The work always seems to be shared and promoted by the general public and that gives the impression that the budget is far bigger than what it actually is.

Do you feel a degree of pressure coming up with MLA ads given how they have become something of an event each year?

We love the challenge. There is no campaign in Australia that is more anticipated each year. The four campaigns we have worked on with the MLA have all gone a little blockbuster. This one is the biggest yet.

Mark Green

What is your take on the reaction to the ad, both positive and negative?

I think that the campaign on the whole has been well received. There are some sensitive moments in Australia’s history that are still to be resolved as a nation and I think the work taps into that broader discussion.

The campaign aims to promote inclusivity, diversity and the best of Australia. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and celebrating all different cultural backgrounds, faiths and beliefs. Naturally there are a lot of different points of view as to the make up of our national identity and how we represent ourselves and I think a national conversation is part of how this gets resolved. Any conversation that moves this topic forward is welcome and productive.

The overwhelming reaction is that this campaign represents a united, multicultural Australia. People are loving and sharing it universally.

Is this MLA’s hallmark now, creating ads that stir some controversy, given previous ads?

The hallmark of MLA’s work is to create the best work in Australia and to be universally loved in doing so. As a result we increase year on year sales of lamb. Advertising that gets people talking is definitely something the MLA doesn’t shy away from.

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