Wednesday, 6 June 2012

What are they flogging: how to tell if you're in regional Australia

Visiting Shepparton this week allowed me to sample the local television ads.  It's one of the things that I notice as a place marker in this increasingly monocultural world and I always like to take a look.  Of course, while I was doing this, I also noticed some other things about television ads that are currently playing.  Generally, I'm a watcher of the ABC and so don't see many ads, but there are two shows that I'm currently watching on commercial television:  The Voice on Channel 9 and Downton Abbey on Channel 7.

If you turn on the television and see someone who is clearly the business owner rather than an actor, you know you're in regional Australia.  Vin may be the world's greatest pest controller, but does that mean he makes for great TV?  No it doesn't.  Vin should stick to hunting down cockroaches and torturing mice.  Sometimes, you won't see the business owner in the ad, you'll hear them instead.  I do occasional voice-over work so I know what we cost, but I also know that we're sooooo worth it!  There is an art to doing voice-over, just as there is an art to lubricating a car engine.  How about we respect each other's skills and stick to what we're great at?

If you're not sure where you are, turn on the television and put it on a commerical channel.  What's being advertised?  If it's sheep dip and herbicide you're in farming and grazing territory.  If there's an actual farmer running his (for he's always a bloke) hands through the dirt or the fleece on the sheep's back, then double your chances you're in regional Australia.  And double the distance you are from a capital city.

I first noticed this phenomenon when I was at boarding school in Toowoomba.  There was an ad for fertiliser to help your sunflower crop along.  It featured an animated sunflower which uttered a groan as it shrivelled and died before our very eyes.  The voice-over man gravely warned us that we could avoid this happening to our sunflower crops.  Although I didn't have then, haven't had since, don't have now and probably won't have in the future, a sunflower crop, I remember this ad vividly.  I think it was the humour.  After we heard the sound of a dying sunflower, the voice-over man's script required him to say, "Let's hear that again", forcing us to relive the terrible sounds of a dying sunflower. Imagine if you had a whole paddack of dying sunflowers?  The sound would be deafening.  And hilarious.  Unfortunately, while I remember the ad, I don't remember the product.  What will I do if I ever do grow sunflowers?  How will I save them from certain death?

Sheep suffering from all kinds of unimaginable afflictions also made strange sounds in television ads.

Unlikely copy writing in television ads is another clue that you're in regional Australia.  This one can be tricky though - it could also mean it's 1 o'clock on Saturday morning and you know you'll regret opening that second bottle of red wine.  A prime example I noticed this week was "Grouse Grout".  It even had a jingle.  Grout isn't usually front of my mind.  If I was in a situation where I was required to think about grout I'm not sure that "grouse" would be in my top ten list of Essential Grout Qualities.  But what would I know? Nothing.  About grout.  Anyway.

Along with locally produced ads, a smattering of other ads was also screened.  Two stood out: KFC's campaign about canola oil and Proactiv's pitch to teenage boys.

KFC's latest pitch hinges on the "word" 'goodification'.  Blah.  It's so horrible that they have an explanatory clip on You Tube.  Years of poor teaching of grammar is clearly paying dividends now as the generation of kids who were taught on the basis of "it doesn't matter how you spell it as long as everyone understands what you mean" grow up and start working for ad agencies.  That's all I have to say about that one.

Proactiv is a skin care brand aimed at acne afflicted teenagers.  Usually they target girls, so it was refreshing to see the pitch to the fellas.  It featured a BMX bike riding star.  He talked about how he likes bumps on a BMX track, but not when they're on his face.  Talk about bumpy scripting!  He talked about how his acne made him feel.  I was right there with him until he told me that his acne was affecting his BMX racing.  Seriously.

There was a time when ads were great.  They had great jingles or were funny or were memorable for good reasons.  Can't think of any right now.

What ads have you noticed lately?  Do have a favourite ad? Or what's the one that makes you yell at the television?


  1. Funny I just watched the goodification explanation clip and thought it was a send up, but it is by KFC!

    If the Urban dictionary is to be believed goodification was introduced to "English" language by George W with American goodification of Iraq, enough said. In this modern age of the information super highway the language seems to be going off the rails.

    I never thought I would admire a Commonwealth Bank Ad but Toni Collete's poetry reading seems like an oasis of goodness in the badification of our language.

    Nice to know some people still know how to write.

  2. Glad you got a kick out of the goodification clip. Someone wasn't thinking clearly.

    The Commonwealth Bank ad has been quite controversial. Many people are railing against Toni Collete for selling out. It's a job! The ad is odd but I like Toni and think she did a good job.

    Have you seen the parody over at Haught? it's called an Ode to Cant and is really clever. (And well written.)