The annual MLA (Meat and Livestock Australia) lamb commercial has built its own niche in popular Australian culture.
The 2023 lamb campaign, created by The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song, explores what it means to be Un-Australian and imagines an alternate reality whereby individuals are banished for displaying foreign behaviour to a land called “Un-Australia”.
Matt Ennis, creative director of Host/Havas says the key element that stood out to him was the storytelling.
Ennis: “Beautiful storytelling craft. The insight of everyone being a little un-Australian is a clever, unique, and downright timely starting point. But what really sets this campaign apart is the way the team brought the script to life with some great writing and a dusty, astral plane of infinite exile. As far as pure entertainment goes, this stands up with the best of them over the brand's history of big summer ads.”
He calls the work rises above white noise and has grown with the evolution of storytelling.
“The annual MLA ad holds a unique and almost legendary position in Australian culture, it's a rare example of a commercial that rises above the white noise of advertising and actually embeds itself in the public consciousness," he said.
“It sparks conversation, it's debated, and even anticipated by the summer BBQing punters. They've been able to do that by staying true to a winning formula for many years: cultural context, provocation and lamb bringing us together. So with that lens, beyond the obvious evolution in subject and storytelling, it's no different to previous years, and that's probably a good thing.
“It's a great bit of work that when you look at the YouTube statistics, comments and coverage, is winning in the real world and that's not always an easy thing to do.”
David Joubert, national executive creative director/partner at Dig Agency: “I like it. I enjoy the Lamb ads. I enjoy the debate they create around the work as everyone comments on them. It’s become our version of the John Lewis Christmas ad.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s completely different. More of an evolution from previous years. There is definitely a theme emerging whereby lamb is becoming the spokesperson for the current cultural sentiment.”
Aldo Ferretto, creative director, The Hallway: “I totally buy the Un-Australian feeling; I have only been in Australia for a few years, and I can totally relate to this film. I think it is Un-Australian to be too progressive which is why I love this ad.
"I truly enjoyed it. It made me feel part of it in a very Un-Australian way which was great, Chapeau! to all the team behind it."
Amelia Morgan, creative strategist at Awaken, says that the lamb ads have a history of being controversially entertaining and this wok smashes it out of the park.
"The Australian Lamb ads have a history of being controversially entertaining and tongue-in-cheek, and this one smashes it out of the park," Morgan said. "I’ve been looking forward to watching this ad, and it didn’t disappoint.
“Although the ad is playing in a safer space than other Australian Lamb ads, I love how this one is controversial in a completely self-deprecating way. It’s also good to see the ads continue to modernise – this one is ironically inclusive through exclusion.
“It takes a while to get to the branded part, and the start is a bit of a slow burn, but the ad’s entertaining nature and well-established clout carries it. Once someone has seen the ad once, it will be easy to use short follow-up edits without having to do any further explaining.”
The account director predicts the notion of being Un-Australian will be a popular 2023 meme.
“You can see how ‘that is un-Australian’ is going to become a meme in 2023," she said. "There are so many spoofs that will no doubt follow from this. The cop with a speed camera popping up from behind the bush is a stroke of brilliance, and I was half-expecting someone to appear with a ‘plate off’ with Marmite or Bovril on toast!
“The dust bowl location makes it feel more like Texas than Australia; maybe a red dust location would have been a more iconic touch; then again, it is supposed to be in exile.
“On one hand, the ad has content that will appeal to all ages - my son was cracking up over the ‘cheat stick’ comment, and has seen it so many times that he is able to dictate the ad. (So the media team is doing their job well too!) Although some may say even though the f-word was bleeped out, it was still pretty obvious what they were saying, making it un-family friendly. But hey, PC language is also pretty un-Australian.
“It’s pretty hard to find much to critique about this ad. It’s very enjoyable, humorous, relatable and PR-able, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Congratulations on a job well done … I’m off to buy some lamb!”
Ryan Ross, creative director at The Pistol, says: “The MLA Lamb ad is an incredibly savvy three-minute film that successfully tows the line of being culturally relevant and provocative, without being offensive - this resonated universally across our diverse strategy and creative team.
"However, the true test of its performance as an ad, will come in how the shorter edits are tailored for the broad target audiences to ultimately drive sales for the farmers who fund these campaigns.”
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