Lamb has entered the contest for what Australia Day means… But does there have to be a contest.
Australia Day: The holiday you get when you’re still getting over the holidays.
Why not give me day off in the middle of Melbourne winter – when I really need one…
Anyway, a few people have been asking me what I think about the ‘Lamb’ ad for Australia Day which is not exactly for Australia Day, but certainly feels like its about Australia Day.
And look, what’s not to like? Famous Australians celebrating Australia’s diverse heritage. It’s impossible not to like it – and certainly impossible to say that you don’t like it publicly.
And it does give part of me a good tickle – that part of me that grew up in a time when not everyone who called you a wog was smiling, and that young fella who felt he had to get into scraps just to earn his place in Australia.
(And before everyone woke up to how awesome soccer is!)
So it’s nice to see a more inclusive story about what Australia is given a bit of air-time.
That said, and I don’t want to be overly-cynical here, there’s something that feels a little off with a major enterprise with big advertising budget deciding to push this message.
And I don’t blame the lamb industry here. After a series of successful and high-profile Australia Day ads, everyone was looking at them to see what they’d do next. And they took it in a very interesting direction. And a very effective direction too.
(How much free publicity have they had on the back of this one?)
But it’s this concept of ‘purpose marketing’ that’s emerged in recent years that grates me a little. This is the idea that it’s not enough to convince people to like your product – you’ve got to make people love you as a company.
And so you have to show people that you share their values, their beliefs and their vision for the world. Not only that, that you are also a champion on that vision – defending the meek and oppressed, and righting wrongs wherever they may be found.
Cue Lamb’s pro-equality public service announcement.
And it’s not just lamb. Think of Addidas’ valentines day campaign featuring two pairs of female running shoes at the front door; a Campbell’s soup ad featuring two dads.
Now this might seem like brave and progressive companies taking a stand and speaking their mind, but as someone who works in marketing, I can tell you that these campaigns would have been very carefully crafted and market-tested.
And they ran because they worked.
And they worked because they made people feel that these companies shared their values, and were willing to stand up in the fight for the narrative about how the world is, and should be.
And this is the key point. We’re talking about a narrative. It is the narrative about whether we live in a world where certain religious principles are upheld, or where all people are free to love whoever they want.
It is the narrative of a white Australia created by anglo heroes vs the narrative of a inclusive society built on the contribution of people from all over the world.
But they’re all just stories.
And it doesn’t matter what’s going on in our day-to-day realities – whether our own faith is under attack, or whether we feel persecuted for the way we are – we get very passionate about the narrative.
(Take a look at the comments on any hot issue in any newspaper.)
And there seems to be the belief (and particularly in progressive movements) that if you take control of the narrative, then you can shape the world for the better.
And utopia will come by coming up with the right narrative, and enforcing it on the world – leaving no space for competing narratives.
“This is a world where all races are equal, and anything that even smells like it might run counter to that narrative will be met with crushing force.”
Diversity is welcome, but not diversity in narratives. There can be only one narrative.
And when I watch the lamb ad, I feel like I’m watching this homogenisation of narrative in action.
There is the construction of a lovely, inclusive narrative – but it is presented as if it were in opposition to another narrative – that there is an ‘enemy’ narrative that needs to be corrected.
(Never mind that the first generation of lamb ads probably helped enforce that ‘enemy’ narrative.)
And while it feels like you’re ‘fighting back’ against tyrannical narratives, at some point, your narrative will become the dominant narrative (hint: if it’s on prime time tv, it’s the dominant narrative), and then you’re no longer a freedom fighter, you have become the tyrant.
And the circle is complete.
So when I think about the beautiful world I feel we’re moving towards, it is not one where there is a single, totally awesome narrative about who we are and what we believe in.
It’s one, where we no longer feel like we need the security of a narrative. We don’t need that safety blanket. We are experiencing ourselves as individuals, living our own lives – our own totally unique stories.
And most importantly we don’t feel that we need to lock the wonderful chaos of the world down into predictable narratives, where everything and everyone is accounted for and there are no surprises.
Do you really want a life where there are no surprises?
So look, don’t let me knock lamb. They’re having a go, and they probably are genuinely trying to help push history along.
But at some point we’re going to have to let all of this go, and start living outside the story.
What did you make of the lamb ad? What were they trying to do? Did they hit it?