MLA’s non-Australia Day spot faces watchdog scrutiny

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 17 January 2017

The highly-celebrated ad from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has made headlines around the world for its modern twist on Australian settlement rather than usual ads centred around Australia Day.

But despite the largely positive reception, the spot will be reviewed by the Advertising Standards Board after receiving a handful of complaints. 

The spot, by The Monkeys, opens on the Australian coastline as the nation’s first people search for the perfect spot to fire up a barbie. It doesn’t take long for other revellers to join the hosts.

Every arrival, from the British to European settlers to the most recent Australian migrants is drawn to the country by the promise of a lamb barbecue, each bringing their own dish and unique flavour to the celebrations.

The ad has been deemed by some as the most political spot released by the MLA. It chooses not to mention the term ‘Australia Day’ and makes the pertinent point that many new Australians arrived on these shores by boat.

The complaints are focused on “issues around Australia Day”. The ASB is obliged to review all complaints but says, so far, a case “has not been raised” to ban the ad under the advertising code.

The script for the most recent ad was leaked last year. BuzzFeed reported The Monkeys found it difficult to cast the Aboriginal characters due to Indigenous actors “feeling like the commercial trivialises the violent British settlement of Australia”.

The MLA does not court nor shy away from controversy, with their ads historically causing a stir. At the end of last year concern's against its Spring lamb campaign were expressed on the basis of racial discrimination. The complaints were dismissed by the ASB.

Topping the list for one of the most controversial ads of 2016 was MLA’s Australia Day campaign featuring Lee Lin Chin. The ad totalled more than 700 complaints, with uproar from vegan community and Indigenous Australians. Again, the ASB dismissed the case.

This year the MLA ad took another swipe at the vegans, as a group of hipsters approach the beach. One of the men say: “Should we crack a vegan joke?”

When asked about the expected controversy when the ad was released, MLA marketer Andrew Howie said the brand doesn’t set out for controversy, rather “talkability”. Read more here.

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