How the latest lamb commercial leverages tension in Australian society

By Ruby Derrick | 18 January 2024

The objective of Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) annual summer lamb ad is to drive significant uplifts in sales on behalf of farmers.

The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song, latest work sets out to do this by imagining another dystopian future, while navigating the chasms of generational differences to explore the unifying power of lamb. 

The Generation Gap, which premiered on Seven and Nine news programs on Sunday, January 7, positions lamb as the meat that brings people together

“Each year the brand looks to demonstrate that at scale by leaning into the things that have the potential to divide Australians,” Graeme Yardy - domestic marketing manager at Meat & Livestock Australia, told AdNews.

"The prevalence of media discussion around the differences between generations was the origin for Lamb to remind Australians that we’re more alike than we think.”

For Kit Lansdell, business strategy director at The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song, the thinking -- and end point -- behind The Generation Gap, starts from Australian Lamb’s brand essence of unity. 

“Based on the genuine difference that lamb meals are mostly a shared experience, a meal that brings friends and families together,” he says. 

“With the brand’s promise of bringing Australians together, each year we look for a tension that’s dividing Australians. Thinking of the campaign as ‘an unofficial state of the nation’ that irreverently captures the mood or zeitgeist.”

Given the time involved in developing the campaign, part of the challenge is identifying a tension that will be relevant and topical when the campaign launches in January to drive as much fame as possible, says Lansdell.

Rather than fleeting events or trends, the agency looked for bigger cultural topics relevant to all Australians as the theme for the year’s campaign. 

“Over the course of 2023 the divides between the generations were being exaggerated by popular culture, technology and living costs. Ever more stories seemingly pitting them against each other,” says Lansdell.

“A ridiculous battle of differences and insults. With so much negativity out there, we felt it was an opportune time to help Australians celebrate our commonalities, not differences with a unifying Lamb barbie.”

The campaign’s key message this year is simple: Nothing brings Australians together like Australian lamb. 

The truth is, Yardy says, if only people got together more, and shared a delicious meal together, they would realise they have more in common than they think. 

“Whether that's families, communities or society at large,” says Yardy.

Lansdell says  Australians are at their best as a nation when they come together.

“And enjoying a lamb barbie with friends and family is the perfect way to do that over summer.”

MLA has constructed a legacy with its recurring dystopian idea. While every year touches on a fresh theme, the core idea that lamb brings Australians together has been central to Australian Lamb’s summer campaign for well over a decade, says Lansdell. 

“And of course, there are several other consistent elements that endure year on year; the cultural provocation, the irreverent humour, Sam Kekovich’s role as ‘Lambassador’ and the deliciously succulent lamb on the barbie,” he says.

MLA LAMB 2 jan 2024To drive significant uplifts in lamb sales, the teams aim to make lamb famous and salient over summer, says Yardy.

“Last year’s ‘Un-Australia’ campaign delivered record results for MLA. The biggest campaign value sales ever, an additional 316,000 households buying lamb and the most viewed lamb campaign in MLA’s history,” he says.

“Adding to the body of proof that fame pays. And setting the goal to beat this year.”

It’s another year and another great lamb ad for Sally Joubert, CEO of brand and communications insights agency Luma Research.

In this year’s campaign, notes Joubert, the MLA created a very funny Australian ad based on the stereotypes and misunderstandings between all generations from Gen Z to Boomers. 

“The visuals are strong and in typical MLA style, Australian lamb is the hero bringing everyone together,” Joubert says.

“The takeaway that everyone can enjoy a lamb barbecue is clear. It is about diversity and bringing people together which is highly relatable for Australians at this time.”

Amanda Spry, senior lecturer of marketing at RMIT University, says for the 75% of households who already choose to buy lamb, this campaign works by putting the meat firmly top of mind and increasing chances people choose it next time they’re at the supermarket. 

“It doesn’t remind people in a heavy-handed way either – it funnily taps into their fondness for lamb and memories of the good times to be had at summer BBQs,” says Spry.  

Though if the goal is to convert the remaining 25% of Australia households who do not choose and eat lamb for summer BBQs, then this campaign may not deliver, says Spry.

She notes MLA may catch and convert a few customers who are on the fence or out of the habit of buying lamb regularly. 

“Yet, a growing proportion of households will not be choosing lamb for very good reasons that have nothing to do with advertising,” she says.

“Chief among them this year is the rising cost of groceries – lamb is predicted to become even more expensive in 2024. Add to this the growing number of people ditching meat-based diets for ethical, environmental and religious reasons.”

Joubert from Luma notes these big ads provide the platform to build a strong emotional bond with consumers through an event and this time it is the generic summer barbecue (with no mention of Australia Day).

“Our research shows that humour based on a human truth or insight is enduring and ultimately watchable on repeat which is what the 2024 ad has achieved,” she says.

“The ad manages to weave in lots of small and relatable generational differences/comments like technology skills, everyone gets a trophy, social media etc. in a way that's engaging and original.”

The only watch out here, believes Joubert, is that there's a lot to take in - and if ads are too busy people can be confused and give up watching. 

“Most importantly apart from being engaging the 2024 ad is likely to leave people feeling warm and fuzzy about Australian lamb as it is the unifier here,” she says.

The dystopian theme of these campaigns works every year as a result of its highly topical and thought-provoking variations, says Spry.

The agencies usually manage to read the zeitgeist - with this year’s ad speaking to the generation gap and making light of each generation group’s stereotypes and the insults they might sling at each other, she says.

“If we think about the crises Australians are grappling with – cost of living, the property market and the aged care system - many of these widen perceived generation gaps.”

Spry says given the severity of these issues though, it’s critical that ads based on political and cultural humour and imagery strike a balance between providing an escapist edge while being attentive to the current climate.

“MLA typically does this well. For instance, they strived to maintain authenticity this year by engaging directors and editors from across the range of generations.”

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