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Wake Up Sheeple! Behind Australia’s Conspiracy-Laden Lamb Ad



Lambalytica is a parody thriller urging Australians to get their chops around lamb this summer, writes Laura Swinton

Wake Up Sheeple! Behind Australia’s Conspiracy-Laden Lamb Ad

This January, brands around the world have been enthusiastically embracing Veganuary but in Australia, the first month of the year belongs to the meat eaters. That’s when the MLA (Meat & Livestock Authority) drops its annual Australia Day Lamb ad.

“The Summer Lamb campaign is quite easily the most anticipated ad campaign in Australia,” explains Graeme Yard, MLA’s domestic market manager. “It started as a nation-wide patriotic call to action but has evolved into an annual Summer broader depiction of Australian culture and values - all done in an entertaining and satirical Lamb way. We get calls weeks before asking for insights into the spot, and there has also been leaks of scripts in previous years, to add to the folklore.”

The spot this year is a little different in tone from previous years’ campaigns. 2018’s spot was a satirical musical. 2017 courted controversy by bringing the gods and goddesses of various world religions together. This year is as funny and provocative, as ever, but the story unfolds as a global thriller, taking its lead from Netflix documentary The Great Hack. Bearing the title of ‘Lambalytica’, it’s a dig at Cambridge Analytica the company behind some dodgy political dealings on Facebook. It depicts our hyper-connected, social media-driven world as more disconnected than ever. The solution? A good old-fashioned Aussie barbeque.

That shift in tone is what appealed to director, Paul Middleditch. “It’s a departure from the humour of the previous years, and it’s dealing with something that is not uniquely Australian of course. It’s more like a dramatic genre piece, like a tech thriller,” says Paul. “I was excited about being able to make a parody of those types of films.”

While it’s a little different from previous years, the campaign is kicked off by the same brief as ever. “As with every year, we ask, ‘how do we use Australian Lamb to bring people together? What is a topical issue that has been on people’s minds this year, that Lamb can take, and build an entertaining and humorous story about, that will resonate with as many Australians as possible?’” explains Graeme.

And so, following a year of growing pressure against tech giants and social media moguls, questions around their harvesting of data and their role in political advertising, no wonder the team at agency The Monkeys’ thoughts kept coming back to technology. But the insight boiled down to something far more direct.

“It was a simple question: what is keeping people from coming together? Whether it be around a meal, or in a more global context. It didn’t take us too long to look at the paradox of being more connected online, but perhaps being more disconnected, and maybe experiencing slightly superficial relationships with those around us,” says Graeme. “The obvious leap was what if Australian Lamb used its own algorithm and data for good, by bringing people together around the ultimate democratic meal...the BBQ!”

The finished ad is incredibly complex, with a huge cast and a number of set-ups. There are several threads to follow in 90 seconds. All of which made it a tricky but interesting challenge for production company Plaza Films and director Paul.

“It is a complex idea with lots of different elements - different situations, locations, surveillance cameras, drone cameras, different groups and individuals coming together. Setting up the situation in the classic suspense mode, then letting the parody gradually unravel up to the point of the inane banter in the operations room at the end was our plan,” explains Paul.

While the ad is a send up, the team were keen not to labour the point, and so everyone, from cinematographer Daniel Ardilley, to editor Stu and the sound team at Song Zu and post production at Fin Design & Effects played it with a straight face.

“I always felt that the best pitch was to play it seriously, because the content itself is pretty funny - ‘Lambalytica’ for example. So we took it seriously as a serious piece of subject matter that we were serious about. And we let the humour bubble through from there.”

With so many threads to weave together, it’s a spot that really needed a thoughtful edit, so Paul turned to The Editors’ Stu Morely. “In piecing together different story lines, I'm conscious of finding natural out points, that tie up a joke or statement, but also keep the flow or rhythm of the piece interesting between scenes,” says Stu, of his way into the spot.

The edit was also key to striking the right mood. “Our aim with MLA was to keep it moving, so as to chase what might be the authenticity of a real spy-like drama, rather than spell out the comedy too much. I think it’s okay to bombard an audience with information, at a pace that means certain jokes are not played for comedy, so long as you give the audience a moment to catch up every now and then,” says Stu. “Paul understands what is required in the edit process and always shoots accordingly. Comedy is a difficult art and he has great success at it.”

The final spot is peppered with comic details, and the end result is an ambitious piece of storytelling that has a climax so all-encompassing and welcoming that even a vegan might enjoy it. “Australian lamb stands for inclusiveness, so those people that choose a vegan diet are welcome too,” said Graeme. “At last read, over 74% of Australians preferred to enjoy a delicious Australian lamb meal, so really the objective of the spot was to continue to build on the love for lamb and encourage Australians to get together over the summer.”

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Genres: People, Storytelling, Comedy

Categories: Food, Meat & Fish

PLAZA, Wed, 05 Feb 2020 17:23:04 GMT