28 Jan Australia Day lamb ad attracts dozens of complaints
It has clocked up over 1.46 million views on YouTube since it was uploaded earlier this month and has gone viral on social media, but not everyone is happy with the latest lamb ad from Meat and Livestock Australia.
However, one particular scene has already been the subject of dozens of complaints.
It shows a team of special agents breaking into a New York apartment and using a blow torch on a table when the occupant protests that he is vegan.
Andrew Howie from Meat and Livestock Australia defended the scene, saying it was a bit of fun.
“The torching is metaphorical towards the kale in the bowl (on the table),” he said.
“It’s in no way intended to be abusive or violent … what we are trying to do is increase lamb sales over the period.”
The majority of complainants have taken issue with the treatment of vegans, but Fiona Jolly from the Advertising Standards Bureau said that element of the scene is not against the rules.
“What we have to do is look at complaints against the Advertiser Code of Ethics, and the Code of Ethics doesn’t really have lifestyle choice or eating preferences as an issue that we will look at as being discriminatory or vilifying.”
But she said the board would review other complaints which argued that the use of a blow-torch was an act of violence, and had no place in food advertising.
“Most complaints that we get about violence concern things such as ads for horror movies or violent computer games, and for those type of products, showing some violence from games is relevant, and so generally those type of ads won’t be banned,” she said.
“But there is no place for violence in an ad unless it’s relevant to the product, so what the board has to look at is the part of the ad complained about — is it actually violent?”
She said the board could decide to pull the ad, or force it to be edited, if it found it had breached the rules.
Meat and Livestock Australia said the ad was supposed to be irreverent.
Every year Meat and Livestock Australia launches its controversial advertising campaign encouraging people to eat more lamb.
In the past so-called “lambassador” Sam Kekovich has taken aim at vegetarians by calling them “soap-avoiding”, “pot-smoking” and “un-Australian”.
Ms Jolly said the Advertising Standards Bureau was not surprised to receive complaints again this year.
“We basically run our operations in January to be prepared for a barrage of complaints whenever Australia Day is approaching,” she said.
“MLA’s standard approach now is to put out a controversial, provocative, attention-seeking ad, so we have been expecting complaints.”
The latest lamb ad cost $1.2 million to make and will run up until January 26.
Meat and Livestock Australia said there was a 35 per cent increase in lamb sales in the lead up to last Australia Day and it hoped to exceed that number in the coming weeks.
What do lamb producers think of the campaign?
Livestock producer Anna Robson, who was at the Dubbo sheep and lamb sales, also spent some time previously as a project manager in the advertising industry.
She said the advertisement was clever and engaging and she could not see any need for actual livestock to be featured.
“It’s aimed at an urban audience [and] they are becoming increasingly disengaged from the source of their food,” Ms Robson said.
“The people here at the saleyards are going to be able to judge a good product on the hoof; the city audience is something completely different.
“I think this ad is interesting, using Lee Lin Chin.
“They’re obviously bringing home the message of what good meat we have in Australia, and how we can forget that until we go overseas.”
Agent David Armitage knows the business of selling stock but this sort of advertising campaign is clearly different to the tractional saleyard approach.
“As agents, we tend not to get involved in the politics of Meat and Livestock’s marketing,” he said.
“I think it’s an interesting ad, and it is certainly appealing to a very broad audience.
“I think the plan is to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, across Australia.”
More than one way to sell a lamb
Not all lamb producers send their stock to the livestock saleyards.
Kate Davies from Coonabarabran sells lambs through the Tooraweenah Prime Lamb group, so she does not rely on the vagaries of saleyard prices.
She said the campaigns were good value for money for lamb producers.
“I think they’re downright entertaining and I love the idea that they are promoting a lamb-based Australia Day culture,” Ms Davies said.
“Lamb sales skyrocket over summer; it actually gets pretty expensive around Australia Day.”
Ms Davies said she thought the industry should be pleased with the results the campaigns had delivered in previous years as well.
“Over time, lamb prices for us have soared; prices ten years ago would have been maybe two dollars a kilo cheaper,” she said.