27 November 2012

If there was a golden era of Australian advertising it would have to be the 1970s and '80s when John Singleton, Mojo and The Campaign Palace were at the height of their creative powers.

Intriguingly, the differences between the three were enormous. Singo's campaigns broke new ground but they were rough and ready, knock 'em down retail advertising with irritating catchphrases repeated ad nauseam. The Palace's ads were brilliantly crafted, cleverly written masterpieces widely awarded and acknowledged by their peers. Such acknowledgement was not of much interest to Mojo's founders Alan 'Mo' Morris and Allan 'Jo' Johnston. “We always had the attitude that we were uninvited guests in people's lounge rooms through their television sets,” said Mo. “We had to treat them with respect, and because television is an entertainment medium, we felt we had to entertain them.”

Their commercials for Tooheys, Meadowlea and World Series Cricket were catchy, singalong numbers that had the populace singing along. Decades later.

“They were the Lennon and McCartney of Australian advertising,” said AFA chairman Russel Howcroft. “For two decades they dominated advertising in a way we might never see again.”

Mojo started as a two-man, one-desk consultancy doing freelance work for other agencies. They were soon in such demand that the only thing to do was start their own agency. Clients kept knocking at the door and the agency kept growing.

Such rapid success had to be funded, though, and the agency was finally merged with MDA, followed by a string of other ownership changes. Mo and Jo moved on.

Their legacy lives on in their 'people's choice' advertising that did so much to 'Australianise' our advertising in the '70s and '80s. They even have a commercial archived in the Smithsonian Institute - the Australian Tourism “Slip Another Shrimp on the Barbie” TVC starring Paul Hogan. Fame indeed.