The Gruen Transfer and comprehensive market research

header_logo_gruen.gifNot so much. Let me digress for a while before I explain that judgement.

We’ve been watching it for the last few weeks because we have teenage kids, and it’s a valuable insight into that hyperconsumerist marketing showbiz for them. On the whole we like it, but mainly because it fosters conversations with them about advertising. For us olds, it doesn’t really tell us much we didn’t already know, and despite the occasionally amusing one-liners? – well, goodmeatballsandgravy they’re a smug bunch of bastards.

Tonight the weekly Challenge for some of the nation’s “top” advertisers was to rebrand the Australian Democrats, given that after the last Federal election the party currently has almost nil national influence.

The second offering won the slot, with an ad concentrating on the original Don Chipp tagline, “Keeping the Bastards Honest”. It showed a montage of historical Prime Ministers, with various descriptions of their bastardry (Paul Keating as “the bastard we had to have” was sheer genius) and ending with a picture of Kevin Rudd, tagged “Bastard”. Beat. “(Probably)”.

I liked it a lot. It certainly made me smile, and think fondly of the past glories of the Australian Democrats.

Now to the salient point. Why have I led with a description of the second ad? Because the first ad was flabby, indulgent, lazy tripe, and the so-called peer-reviewers from this allegedly cut-throat advertising industry didn’t call it on being so. They all said they loved it, when it was unadulterated rubbish even if it hadn’t been plagiarising a recent campaign for another party.

That first ad’s tagline was was “Third Party Insurance”, although it took them a very long and confusing 45 seconds to get there. (Honestly, what the hell was happening until they got to the tagline?) The tagline itself would have been OK, except that “Third Party Insurance” was the tagline for the Australian Greens in the Federal election held only six months ago. Did nobody in this advertising agency, about to present something on national television, do their homework?

Or is it that they feel that nobody will remember the Greens campaign tagline, and therefore it’s up for grabs? In that case, if public recognition of this motto from only six months ago is so low, their behaviour (unethical as it might be) is a valuable lesson for the Greens, pointing to a failure in the Greens’ campaign strategy at the last election if their major soundbite is so little remembered as being associated with them.

Whatever the story, either sheer laziness or opportunistic chutzpah grabbing at some flotsam in the post-election tides, the show lost the chance to make a strong point about the impermanency of branding campaigns. It would be a much better show if it didn’t pander to the egos of the guest marketeers quite so much.

Categories: education, language, media

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16 replies

  1. Lol, I didn’t remember that it was the Green tagline, and I voted Green. I agree that the advertisers think they’re hot stuff (look at the jobs of ‘intelligent, sexy’ characters on tv – so many times it’s ‘in advertising’. How can they help but think of themselves as intellectual and comedic superstuds?) and that the show is mostly one-liners. When one of them touched on semiotics, it was glossed over so fast I barely had time to get interested. Oh well. Better that than nothing.

  2. There’s nothing wrong with the tagline, it’s very clever actually, but it’s not original. However, since the Greens didn’t manage to make it “stick” as their branding then perhaps it should be up for grabs by someone who can make it work. Dunno about how these things work in advertising, but assuming that the Greens didn’t actually register the phrase as a trademark then I guess it’s open slather.
    Of course, the main reason that the Greens failed to make it stick as their party branding was a lack of funding to spend on advertising. The Democrats have a similar problem. It doesn’t matter how good your tagline is if it doesn’t get out there in front of those eyes and ears in the first place.
    The studiedly scruffy chap who mentioned semiotics is the most interesting critic on the show, actually trying to do truly critical analysis rather than just offering up a soundbite, but the format doesn’t allow for that to be explored. Still, it is a start.

  3. I caught this for the first time last night– completely agree about the two ads.
    Just a note– the “third party insurance” line was actually originally used by the German Greens, where it apparently worked very well for them (of course, they have greater representation and greater funding).
    I thought some of the jokes at the expense of David Hicks were in pretty poor taste.

  4. I thought the first ad was just annoying, but hubby liked it best. We were on our way to bed so we didn’t thrash out the reasons why. I didn’t remember the tagline was from the Greens campaign.

  5. Interesting about the German provenance of the “third party insurance” line, Beppie. It goes even more strongly to my point about a lack of homework done, or at least a lack of homework discussed on the show. If they had acknowledged that another political party used the line, but that it hadn’t had much impact for them and that was why they thought that they could filch it for another party who might more effectively exploit it, I would have been interested in that discussion about why some campaigns work or not despite using the exact same idea.
    Mindy, I can’t even remember anything now about the first ad except the tagline, and that it confused me until the tagline came up. I can remember many moments from the second ad very clearly.

  6. I caught my first episode last night and found myself violently hating the panelist on the far right (as an industry stooge and apologist) and thoroughly liking the dude on the far left, who seemed to have no fear of repercussion from teh industry. Is this a deliberate table setting of Left and Right, Goodie and Baddie? Does this occur every week?

  7. I think those two panelists are on there every week, and that it has been a conscious choice at some level to weight it that way (though it may not have been apparent just how obvious this would become when they were chosen). I actually like the stooge/apologist guy, because he’s a healthy reminder of the sorts of tautological reasoning that will always be trotted out to justify the status quo. I get the sense (and not just from the show) that the land of advertising is full of over-inflated egos knocking up against each other. Altogether these things give the show a certain amount of productive tension, though I’m not sure if it’s harnessed successfully.
    I assume that the Jane Caro who appears on the show regularly is the same Jane Caro who is about to launch her new book (with Catherine Fox) ‘The F-Word: How we learned to swear by feminism’?

  8. I actually like the stooge/apologist guy, because he’s a healthy reminder of the sorts of tautological reasoning that will always be trotted out to justify the status quo.

    A uesful idiot? That’s a good point to mention to the kids, definitely.

  9. I assume that the Jane Caro who appears on the show regularly is the same Jane Caro who is about to launch her new book (with Catherine Fox) ‘The F-Word: How we learned to swear by feminism’?

    Yes it appears so. It was launched on Tuesday night. How weird that they don’t mention a book launch on a show with a panel full of pundits. Does Auntie think that feminism’s too scary here?

  10. Yes, I was thinking he might be a good way of honing kids skills at responding critically to those trying to shut-down discussion. He’s good at wheeling out a lot of the usual rhetorical devices.
    Feminism IS still scary, thankfully.

  11. Oh noes, it seems like my old commenting identity has been revealed by moving to the laptop. Obviously Adam = Klaus K.

  12. I voted Green however I don’t remember the “Third Party Insurance” line. I liked it when I heard it last night, but given how close the Coalition and Labor are on petrol, etc, maybe the Greens need to rethink their positioning next time round. Unfortunately they are not the ‘third party’, in fact they are the only real alternative to the Labor/Coalition machine. A machine that is unable or unwilling to understand that we are in desperate times and that the old politics, of which they are so fond, of is one of the reasons we are facing the real prospect of climate catastrophe.

  13. “given how close the Coalition and Labor are on petrol”
    To that I give a great big “Huh?”
    Did I miss something? Has Brendan Nelson not vowed to cut petrol excise so that people can use more of it? I don’t recall Kevin Rudd doing the same thing.

  14. For anyone who is interested, the Greens ‘3rd Party Insurance’ ad from August last year can be found here:

  15. I’ve been enjoying the show (and not yet using it to educate the kiddies). I agree with you that the scruffy pundit on the left is by far the best part of the show (he must be already pretty successful to make the honest comments he makes, I suspect). Every time I start thinking I like the one on the right, he starts apologising for the industry again.
    I agree with you that the “third party insurance” ad was rubbish – usually the two of them are better than that, even when there is a clearish winner.

  16. There’s profiles of all the regular panellists on the ABC website for the show. They’re all very successful in the industry.

    Every time I start thinking I like the one on the right, he starts apologising for the industry again.

    Yup. Very irritating.

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