Oh dear. I don’t like the new ad promoting Australia to us Brits, called Matesong. I wish I did but I just can’t. Firstly, the music. It’s awful, quite frankly. Even worse than the score from a dismal Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. It’s not even forgettable because it’s so bad that the tune just hangs around in my head, like the smog from the bushfires hangs around Sydney harbour. It is migraine music.
Then there’s Kylie Minogue’s nasally voice. I get why she is fronting this – she’s an Australian icon in the UK and ultra clean with no scandals to speak about, which is more that you could say for one of her co-stars, Shane Warne. But the song just doesn’t suit her vocal range or style. Why couldn’t they have created a boppy song like the ones she’s famous for (such as Can’t Get You Out Of My Head of 2001 which is so brilliant)? Sadly she just has to whine along to the tune and it sounds like one of those early auditions in X-Factor which Simon Cowell massacres.
I guessed that this ad originated in Australia and Campaign reports that it was indeed created by M&C Saatchi Sydney and its London office. The reason I guessed it was because I hardly recognise any of the personalities in the ad. That’s the problem – the Aussies in particular are guilty of thinking that we know their personalities and ‘get’ their culture. Those awful and unfunny Fosters ads with the Australian comedy due Dan and Brad from 2015 left scars in my inner ears. And Bananas in Pyjamas didn’t travel well.
Kylie and Shane are instantly recognisable, of course. If you’re quick you might recognise the ex-Olympic Gold swimmer Ian Thorpe. However, tennis player Ashleigh Barty might be famous in Australia but not here and she’s certainly not recognisable in her 2.5 second appearance on the tennis court mid-distance hitting a ball at an ad panel with the song lyrics on it. And who is the other main character and singer in the ad, the one wearing a bird nest on his chin? Well being British you’ll know he’s Adam Hills, the famous Australian comedian and quiz show host. Exactly. Sorry people but this ad is guilty of navel-gazing.
The ad is also heavily ironic in a bad way, for two reasons. Firstly, the only news we’re getting from Australia at the moment is the terrible saga of the bush fires in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. So I don’t think of beaches or cute quokkas (a tame cat-sized marsupial shown in the film that only lives on an island off Perth) or cricket or gastronomy when I think of Australia right now. But given the fires are going to burn all season I suppose now is as good a time as any for the ad campaign.
Secondly, the bush fires are caused by global warming. Right, Greta? Everyone over here says so too and presumably it’s the same in Australia, with the exception of coal-loving Aussie PM Scott Morrison. So us Brits are being encouraged to buy long-haul flights that will spew tons and tons of koala-incinerating CO2 into the atmosphere in order for Australia to hit its tourism targets for 2020. The additional irony is that there’s a clip in the ad of Kylie on a tree bough with three koalas at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. It’s a moral conundrum for Brit holiday makers but not, it appears, for Australia Tourism.
The ad has also come in for criticism from within Australia not only for the unfortunate timing but also for showing a too-Anglicised version of Australia, despite 30% of the population being born overseas and a fifth being non-white. But all ads must be judged ultimately not on whether we like them but whether they change our behaviour, which is what marketing is all about. Would this make you want to visit Oz?
This ad presents Australia as the Aussies want us to view it with the overt message that with the Brexit saga ongoing, your best mate in the world is available to cheer you and the family up – so come on over to Australia. But call me old-fashioned (I am) – I just hark back to the great Paul Hogan ads of the 1980s.