What Video Marketers Can Learn from 5 Memorable Australian Commercials

By September of 2019, nearly 60% of Australia’s population was on YouTube.

With internet and social media usage increasing in Australia, the percentage above is likely to grow.

Like people in many other countries, Australians embrace video when it comes to learning new things, entertaining themselves, or even researching new products. Now, with growing access to the web, mobile data, and all sorts of online video platforms, video is more readily at Australian fingertips than ever before.

At this point, if you’re a marketer for an Australian company or an international brand looking to gain awareness in the region, video content or video ads could be solid tactics for you.

But, if you’ve never made a commercial or marketing video for your brand before, you might ask yourself, “Where do I even start?”

One of the best ways to learn how to effectively sell your brand or product through video could be watching commercials from your region’s most successful brands.

By looking at some of the most iconic Australian commercials, you can learn about storytelling styles and other video marketing tactics that nurture national or global audiences from the TV or computer screen to stores.

And, even if you don’t have the same video budget as a big brand, you can still use their content to consider similar, but more scaleable video strategies.

To help Australian or international marketers in their quest to create compelling video marketing content, here are five great Australian commercials that you can use for inspiration.

5 Iconic Australian Commercials Marketers Can Learn From

“Big Ad” – Carlton Draught (2006)

Carlton Draught‘s biggest commercial, produced by Young & Rubicam — formerly George Patterson & Partners, places the viewer in the middle of a blockbuster movie war scene with the mountainous Australian landscape in the background.

As Big Ad begins, one large group of men in red robes walks swiftly towards an incoming group of men in yellow robes. As they get closer to each other with a quickening pace, they sing the words, “It’s a big ad. Very big ad. It’s a big ad we’re in,” to the tune of Carl Orff’s epic work, “O Fortuna.”

As the ad and song reach their climax, the men run towards each other at full speed as they loudly sing, “It’s a big ad! For Carlton Draught! It’s just so freaking huge! It’s a big ad. Expensive ad. This ad better sell us some bloody beer!”

As the thousands of men run closer to each other, viewers see that they’re not actually rushing into a huge battle. Instead, from a sky view, viewers can see that the men wearing red are shaping the image of a man drinking beer, while the men in yellow are shaping the beer glass and the beverage going into the man’s stomach. The ad ends with close-up shots of the robes men in the group holding out Carlton Draught beer.

The Carlton Draught commercial so memorable because it hilariously and tastefully mocks the ridiculously high-budget commercials, as well as the advertising world, while still spreading huge awareness for Carlton Draught.

When reflecting on Big Ad and the ad industry, a post from O’Reilly notes the epic TV commercial style has “been a central feature of advertising for decades. Its defining characteristics are a dramatic setting, a huge cast, significant dollops of post-production, and a rather po-faced disposition. All of which makes it ripe for satire.”

The spot was also part of a broader spoof campaign that mocked the grandeur and masculinity in beer industry advertising. Two other ads within the campaign, titled “Made From Beer,” told stories of how science, technology, and horses were involved in the brewing process as well as how all men needed a canoe to seem masculine.

Big Ad, which might be the most memorable commercial in the George Patterson campaign, went on to win a Gold Lion and was nominated for the Grand Prix at the 2006 Cannes Lions Festival.

“Not Happy, Jan!” – Yellow Pages Australia (2000)

Before the internet, brands around the world relied on the Yellow Pages, a book filled with local business ads and phone numbers of individuals with landlines in the immediate area. And, even though some regions don’t rely on the Yellow Pages to find all the local contact information we need any more, we can still get an idea of just how important it was to local businesses from the ad below.

In the commercial, a frustrated boss played by comedian Deborah Kennedy flips through the Yellow Pages and calls a scared employee named Jan into her office. Kennedy’s character asks Jan why their company’s ad isn’t featured in it. Jan panics, runs out of the office, and down the street realizing she forgot to order the Yellow Pages ad.

Kennedy tries to remain calm, counting to ten until she runs to the window bursting with anger. She stares out the window at Jan running away and yells, “Not happy, Jan!”

The ad, produced by Clemenger BBDO, wasn’t just funny and entertaining to viewers. It also became iconic in Australian culture. Shortly after airing, the phrase, “Not happy, Jan” became heavily used in vernacular when Australians wanted to jokingly show disappointment related to someone’s incompetence.

In a Daily Telegraph interview, Kennedy explained that the phrase “Not happy, Jan,” was “like swearing at your kids without swearing. It just took on a life of its own … it was everywhere.”

Although people in some areas barely use the Yellow Pages, this ad’s storyline still feels timeless and entertaining. Why? Because it cleverly uses humor and relatability to show a need for its product.

Odds are many people have dealt with a bad boss, forgetting to do something important at work, or a need to use the Yellow Pages to learn more about a local business. Similarly, many entrepreneurs and marketers in the 1980s through the early 2000s considered or purchased ads in the Yellow Pages. This ad tells a story that most of its viewers could relate to.

“I Can See the Pub from Here” – XXXX (1988)

Before it was rebranded as XXXX, Castlemaine XXXX’s early beer commercials often showed rural Australian residents, farmers, and construction workers getting into humorous, but dangerous, situations just to get ahold of XXXX beer.

After a wild scene, a narrator would read the edgy tagline, “Australians Wouldn’t Give a Castlemaine XXXX for Anything Else.” Since the tagline was a play on a commonly used phrase curse word, the ads insinuated that Australians wouldn’t care so much about any other beer or thing.

Below is one memorable 1986 ad where two cowboys are riding through the Australian landscape when one’s horse gets spooked by a snake and tosses him off a cliff.

The cowboy’s friend jumps off his horse and clumsily falls down the cliff trying to find his friend who’s loudly calling out to him. After the friend continues to fall dramatically down the cliff to reach the other cowboy, he gains his footing and yells, “I’m coming, Snowie!” He then falls down a hill, faceplanting into a tree. At that point, the cowboy who fell off the cliff first yells “Up here!” as the other cowboy looks up confused.

In a funny turn of events, the cowboy who first fell off the cliff is shown nearly unscathed, pleasantly holding on to a tree. He looks at his disheveled friend who’s just fallen hundreds of feet down a cliff to save him, smiles, points, and says, “I can see the pub from here.”

The camera then points to a middle-of-nowhere pub as Castlemaine’s iconic tagline appears:

This campaign, conceived by the agency Saatchi & Saatchi, is effective because it tells an exhilarating story that pulls viewers in, makes them laugh, and ultimately ties back to the main product: beer.

This is a great example of how marketers can use creativity to produce a fairly simple add that gains memorability and awareness all around the country.

“Louie the Fly” – Mortein (1962)

For years, Australians have followed Louie the Fly, an insect who constantly gets killed off in Mortein bug spray commercials. But, decades before the fly was modernized as a full-color cartoon, he was just a basic, hand-drawn animation in the classic black and white ad that introduced him below.

In the commercial, Louie the Fly introduces himself with a fun jingle. He sings, “Louie the Fly, I’m Louie the fly. Straight from rubbish, tip to you. Spreading disease with the greatest of ease. Straight from rubbish, tip to you.”

As the fly sings, he also digs through garbage and dances around a messy house.

In the climax of the ad, he sings, “I’m bad and mean and mighty unclean. Afraid of no one, except for the man with the can of Mortein.” Then, he turns around to see a can of Mortein spraying him. He looks scared, fades off-screen, and then dies as another singer enters the jingle with, “Poor dead Louie. A victim of Mortein.”

After the jingle, Mortein’s products are shown as the spokesperson explains that its ingredients safely and effectively kill pests in the home.

While this ad’s animation and jingle might feel pretty basic today, it was innovative for its time — and incredibly risky due to large production expenses. To bring Louie the Fly to life, Mortein’s agency, McCann-Erickson, needed help from musicians, sound engineers, animators, and voice actors.

Luckily, audiences enjoyed Louie the Fly — enabling him to be a notable fictional character in advertising. Even in recent years, Mortein has created ads that continue to show him getting killed off by bug spray products. They even dedicated a page of their website to him in the early 2000s.

Most recently, Louie the Fly’s jingle was inducted in the National Film And Sound Archive of Australia’s Sounds of Australia registry,

“Mortein ads still feature the unmistakable tune of the original jingle. And while everyone’s favourite gangster fly shows no sign of disappearing …, the fact that the jingle is now part of Sounds of Australia means it will live on at the NFSA for future generations to enjoy,” states a post on NFSA’s site.

While Mortein’s ad required a high-budget decades ago, marketers with smaller budgets can still take a note from them today. The commercial above is a great example of how a creative storyline or simple jingle can highlight the value and need for a product.

“Happy Little Vegemites” – Vegemite (1956)

Although Vegemite was invented and sold in Australia as early as 1922, it didn’t get its first commercial until the 1950s, after it had already become a common Australian ingredient eaten by residents and members of the Australian military during World War II.

While many of the commercials on this list use humor to draw audiences, Vegemite’s iconic 1956 ad, produced by Wunderman Thompson (formerly J Walter Thompson), thrived on circus entertainment. In the commercial, children dressed like animals, clowns, and “little Vegemites” sing, dance, and do light circus stunts to Vegemite’s original jingle. Behind them sits a large jar of Vegemite.

Vegemite’s jingle explained how commonly Vegemite was used as a meal spread and the health benefits it could provide to children. Here’s just one excerpt.

“We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast, lunch, and tea. Our mummies say we’re growing stronger every single week. … We all adore our Vegemite. It puts a rose in every cheek.”

As the children finish singing the jingle, a girl sings, “It puts a rose in every cheek.” The camera cuts from a close up of her in costume to a close up of her at the dining table eating a meal covered with Vegemite. Then, a narrator explains that Vegemite is a great source of vitamin B12, adding, “Be sure you put Vegemite next to the pepper and salt whenever you set the table!”

Today, Australian marketers still look back at this commercial for how iconic it was. While middle-aged Australians might know parts of the song by heart, others have adopted the term, “Happy little Vegemites” as an ironic way to describe a group of people who are satisfied with something.

Although Vegemite’s ad was made nearly 70 years ago, it’s still timeless and effective.

First, it pulls a viewer into the action by showing them a fun circus-like song and dance. Then, it educates viewers on the health and taste benefits of the product. Finally, it ends with a clip of a happy girl enjoying Vegemite with her meal, which might have been relatable to the many Australians who had already eaten or heard of Vegemite by this point.

Creating Memorable Content

Whether you’re a marketer in Australia or any other country, you can learn a thing or two from all of the iconic Australian ads above. Even if you don’t have an agency or a huge video budget to produce content, here are a few tips you can scalably follow:

  • Be relatable: One thing Australian commercials do well is create situations that viewers can relate to, such as a pesky fly in the house or the stress of an angry boss. Consider content or video storylines that will allow your audience to identify with your brand.
  • Leverage humor: One great way to develop a sense of relatability, while also entertaining your audiences is with humor. This is why many Australian marketers emphasize it within their content.
  • Present a value proposition: An ad is no good if people don’t understand your product or what it does. Although the ads above place viewers in entertaining scenes or storylines, they still weave in descriptions of what their product is, why people need it, and what makes it unique.

Want to see more effective examples of Australian advertising campaigns and marketing tactics? Check out this post which highlights some of Australia’s recent award-winning campaigns.

To learn more about video marketing, you can also download the free resource below.

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