Your Shot: The Monkeys on Getting Overseas Aussies Home for Lamb
It may be somewhat stereotypical to assume that Australians love a ‘barbie’. But every 26th January the country gets together to celebrate its national day and there is one thing that’s whetting appetites across the giant island: lamb. And as synonymous with Australia Day as lamb itself are the commercials that come out each year promoting the eating of sheep. The Monkeys executive creative director and co-founder Scott Newell, who along with his team is tasked with creating the Lamb ads, likens the occasion to a ‘kind of Super Bowl in Australia’. LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with him to find out about 2016’s offering.
LBB> What inspired the ‘Operation Boomerang’ narrative? Despite its tongue-in-cheek nature, were there any specific experiences that you or others drew upon?
SN> Australians on the whole are travellers and we like to get off the island early on in our working lives and usually go overseas to discover what the rest of the world is like. I don’t think there are many Australians who haven’t been overseas for Australia Day and haven’t thought: “Oh, this is a bit lonely”. It’s a time when you feel the pull of your home country keenly. The team came up with this thought of Australia Day orphans and it went from there.
LBB> And from where did you draw inspiration for the feel and tone of the film? Did any movies play reference at all?
SN> It’s the kind of comedy you have to play straight; it’s always fun to argue the stupid seriously. So there are obviously drawings from action films – the Michael Bays of the world, Zero Dark 30, but there’s also Leslie Nielsen films like The Naked Gun where there is this level of absurdity. We are definitely using action-film tropes and clichés and playing with them.
LBB> The Australia Day Lamb campaign is now in its twelfth year. What are the biggest challenges in keeping it relevant, but totally fresh each year? What’s your starting point for the project?
SN> For a long time the MLA has done an amazing job linking lamb to our national Australia Day, so your first job is to keep that belief intact. Every brief is always a challenge but probably last year was the bigger challenge. There were 10 years of Sam Kekovich leading the MLA campaigns so what were we going to do that was different? Last year’s Richie Benaud campaign was a good way to move into the future. Our challenge now is to keep the brand idea ‘You Never Lamb Alone’ alive, with the thought that lamb is about unity and bringing people together, and of course to do this in the most entertaining way possible.
LBB> For non-Aussies, who are the celebrities in the campaign?
SN> Some of the celebrities include SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin, Australian rugby captain Stephen Moore, acclaimed recently retired Aussie cricketer Mitchell Johnson, Nova Network radio host stars Fitzy & Wippa, MLA “lambassador” Sam Kekovich (an Australian media personality, sports commentator and former Australian rules football player).
LBB>How is it for you, personally, to work on such a culturally important campaign?
SN> I love it and I know the team does too. For us the opportunity is having a client that wants us to push the boundaries and do something people really love. Over many years, MLA has established with this campaign a kind of Super Bowl moment of advertising in Australia, which we otherwise don’t really have. It’s also nice to have something you can talk about at barbeques – especially when people ask you what you do for a job.
LBB> Why did you decide to work with Rabbit Content’s Lachlan Dickie? What did he bring to the final production?
SN> Lachlan came back with this wonderful treatment that to us really hit the tonality of the spot bang on. He understood that he had to take an absurd idea (a huge operation just to get people home for Australia Day) and treat it in a very serious way. He brought great ideas to the table, including the aircraft carrier that travelled around the world collecting expats. He was fantastic technically and incredibly resourceful, but most importantly, he nailed the tone and knew where we were going to get the humour from.
LBB> The campaign is supported on radio by The Nova Network's Fitzy & Wippa show, who are seeking out Aussies in London to be sent home for ‘the most Aussie BBQ ever’. How can London-based Aussies get involved?
SN> The Australia Day campaign will be supported on-air via a major radio partnership with The Nova Network’s Fitzy & Wippa show. Airing from Monday 11 January through to Australia Day (Jan 26th), the hosts are showing their commitment to the Operation Boomerang theme by airing from London throughout the first week, and seeking out overseas Australians to be flown home for Australia Day and a lamb BBQ. Aussie expats will need to tune into the Fitzy & Wippa show for details on how to become more involved.
LBB> Are there any other aspects launching around the main film?
SN> There are other content pieces coming. Additional media spend will also see the ad pushed out across digital, social and TV, whilst PR will spread the message across earned media. In-store, product-focused point-of-sale will deliver lamb BBQ inspiration, focusing on a selection of different cuts.
LBB> Where did the shoot take you and how long did it last?
SN> I would love to say the shoot took us all around the world to all of those locations but unfortunately it didn’t. It took us as far as the budget went, which was metropolitan Sydney. The production company was incredibly resourceful when it came to finding and picking a lot of these scenes to build the story around. We of course used set-up location shots to imply it was happening all around the world. It was a four-day shoot.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
SN> I guess the budget compared to what you see on screen along with the casting – getting the right mix of people including the celebrity stars. Technically, the biggest challenge was probably filming the people falling through a glass ceiling.
LBB> Personally, what is your favourite element of the film?
SN> “Get out of the pool Gary”. It’s such a fun line and dig at cinematic clichés – to me it encapsulates how we are looking at this whole thing; it’s so absurd you have to play it seriously. It is light-hearted, fun entertainment. But the trick was trying to keep it serious so when the opportunities for comedy come up they work the hardest.