Meat and Livestock Australia’s You Never Lamb Alone campaign to promote sales of lamb is one of the most controversial and widely talked about campaigns in recent Australian advertising history. Created by The Monkeys, it shows that when the marketing brief and the creative response are clear, and the client and agency collaborate to push creative boundaries and provoke a response, the results can be impressive.
The Marketing Brief: Togetherness
In 2016 MLA charged The Monkeys with developing a campaign that would boost awareness of lamb as a meal option, based on the premise that, as Australians, ‘we never lamb alone’.
In 2017, the brief was to take the same strategic positioning and to continue to drive demand for lamb sales for lamb producers. “Ultimately, the success of this campaign is measured by lamb sales throughout the January period,” MLA group marketing manager Andrew Howie said.
The Monkeys’ executive planning director Fabio Buresti said the brief to the agency was “to build on that initial message but to do it again on a bigger scale and make it even more provocative – and push it as hard as we could”.
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The Opportunity: The Meat that’s Shared
Earlier lamb Australia Day ad campaigns featured former AFL footballer Sam Kekovich ranting about his take on patriotism and why Australians should eat lamb on Australia Day.
The ethnographic research the agency conducted showed Australians love to enjoy a meal around the table with friends and family. Sadly, this was proving all too rare an event: 39% of Australians wished they could eat with others more often and 11% said they had feelings of guilt that they didn’t eat together more often.
“Unlike chicken, beef and seafood, lamb was more often than not a shared experience – a meal that brought friends and families together,” Buresti said.
“This formed the basis of our long-term strategic opportunity – to be Australia’s national meat because we bring all Australians together – and marked a change in trajectory for the brand.”
The Strategy: Provoking Emotions
Looking at the data and what the fresh meat category was doing revealed most ad campaigns – such as recent campaigns promoting pork — were focused on the nutritional benefits rather than emotional elements. And at the time, lamb was very expensive.
“When you promote it as a shared experience and you’re dividing the cost across more people, it actually makes the high cost more palatable to the consumer,” Buresti said.
The Monkeys then looked at Australia Day from a societal point of view and the historical issues and political debate that often arises.
With limited resources, the agency knew that earned media would be its best friend. With that in mind, the strategy aimed to provoke a response from traditional media as well as on social media.
“What all this pointed to was the idea of unity and people coming together but presented in a provocative way,” Buresti said.
The Creative Brief: Celebrating Diversity
In 2016, The Monkeys launched ‘Operation boomerang’, an ad campaign that became a full-scale rescue mission to bring Australians trapped overseas home for Australia Day for a lamb barbeque.
In 2017, the agency decided to go one step further and start with a barbeque hosted by indigenous Australians, who were then joined by waves of later immigrants, from early explorers to the First Fleet, European and Asian immigrant groups and finally vegans — who complained of being vilified in the 2016 commercial — joining in the celebrations.
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The Campaign: Barbecue on the Beach
Under the umbrella positioning “You’ll never lamb alone”, the 2017 TV ad featured a giant barbecue on the beach, hosted by a number of indigenous Australians and punctuated by a number of jokes and cameo appearances.
And while it controversially evoked the January 26 First Fleet landing that Australia Day commemorates — despite many indigenous Australians regarding it as “Invasion Day” — Australia Day itself was not mentioned. In fact, Aboriginal Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter Cathy Freeman makes a cameo in the ad to ask the question “What’s the occasion?” and the response is, “Do we need one?”
In addition to television, online and across social media channels, the campaign ran on outdoor sites, featured in product-focused point-of-sale promotions in major retail outlets, and was promoted via a media broadcast partnership with Channel Nine during Australian-themed movies and throughout its cricket coverage.
The Results: Unprecedented Debate
The engagement MLA saw as a result of Operation Boomerang has been unprecedented in the history of lamb ad campaigns, resulting in skyrocketing sales of lamb during the campaign period since 2016.
The 2017 campaign continued to cause an outpouring of commentary on social media with some indigenous leaders labelling it offensive, and other commentators seeing it as a comment on Australia’s controversial policy of detaining refugees in offshore detention centres. It also generated complaints to the Advertising Standards Board — though not as many as ‘Operation Boomerang’.
Given MLA had a relatively small budget, Buresti commended the brand for making the most of every ad dollar spent and really encouraging the agency to push its creative boundaries.
“They knew it had to be provocative and do the same thing this year with our indigenous angles on the campaign,” he added. “And that even went even bigger than Operation Boomerang in terms of the earn and the phenomenal social impact it had.”
‘Operation Boomerang’ was the most successful Australia Day campaign ever – achieving over 1.5 times (160%) the previous record for retail sales uplift, set by the “Lambnesia” campaign in 2013.
Shortly after launch, the 2017 TV ad and campaign was highly successful, with more than 7.6 million views and almost 1000 pieces of media coverage.
In 2016 lamb experienced record volume uplifts for farmers and record sales results, with a Farmers’ ROI of 2.32 or 232% and an increase in lamb sales of almost 37% over the campaign period. Similarly strong results were experienced this year.
The Marketer’s View
“This year’s campaign is about putting lamb at the forefront of celebrating modern Australia and who we are as a nation – and ensuring we all enjoy our lamb at barbecues right across the country this summer,” MLA’s Andrew Howie said.
“Ultimately, our marketing campaigns are designed to generate discussion. As effective marketers, we always try to tap into topics or discussions that are already happening across the country. This campaign is no different.
“As the face of Australia continues to evolve and change – we need to make lamb relevant to a diverse, modern Australia. This campaign does that by celebrating the diversity of Australia.”
The Agency’s View
It was critical to unlock the strategic potential of lamb before jumping to the execution, Buresti said.
“We’re not saying you can solve all the world’s problems, but we wanted to have a bit of fun and engage people this year with what could be quite a serious and timely message,” Buresti said.
“Hats off to MLA who pushed us and gave us the room to be as creative as possible. They gave us the permission and the will to do it and believe in the ideas as much as we did.”
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