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What Does “Make It Feel Aussie” Really Mean?

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Jon Austin, ECD of Host/Havas, weighs in on what changing Australian values mean for creatives

What Does “Make It Feel Aussie” Really Mean?


“Make it feel Aussie”. As creatives, we’ve all worked on briefs with those words. 
“Make it feel Aussie” has become shorthand for “make it larrikin”. Fill it with mateship. Set it on a beach. Or around a barbeque. The classically ‘Aussie’ ad.

And what does the brief say when brands want to create a more modern piece of communication? “Don’t make it too Aussie”.

Whilst we’ve shifted our mindsets in terms of music, film, art and other cultural markers, advertising hasn’t budged. We’re stuck in a throwback, tunnel vision view of how “Australian-ness” shows up in communications. And that’s a huge problem. 

Because, for an industry that relies almost entirely on creating resonance and connection, we are increasingly creating the exact opposite. The reality is our Australian values have changed – very significantly in places – but our understanding and reflection of them in the messaging we put out into the world hasn’t. 

The Australian National Values in 2022 study by Havas Labs, the research division of the Havas Australia Creative Group, in partnership with YouGov, found new generations of Australians are embracing far more progressive values over traditional ones. 

The traditional view of Australian values built around mateship, nationalism and no tall poppies really only connects with people aged 50-plus. They’re Boomer badges of honour.

In stark contrast, younger generations of Australians led by Gen Z value more modern, progressive ideals. Creativity. Innovation. Intellectualism. Entrepreneurship. Achievement. All things Boomers don’t rate highly at all. 

Tellingly, sustainability tops the list of values Gen Z and Millennials want to see more of in future Australia. It doesn’t feature at all for Boomers and is way down Gen X’s list of priorities. 

Yet, at the moment in advertising, we commonly still default to one traditional definition of what “Aussie” feels like. And as a result, that exclusionary definition means the new values younger Australians prioritise feel “un-Australian”. 

We’re trying to make “authentically Aussie” ads that don’t feel authentically Aussie to the Aussies watching them. Then we scratch our heads wondering why they are disengaging. We know the role of advertising is to reflect an audience. They need to be able to see themselves in it. But we’re holding up a warped old mirror that reflects a different time, and we still expect people to recognise themselves. 

When you choose that traditional route thinking you’re speaking to everybody, you only speak to a small proportion of the population, and potentially alienate great swathes of it. When we do that as an industry, we’re dividing – not connecting.

It’s time to hit pause and reflect on what “authentically Aussie” means in advertising today. 

Do a values-based audit. Be robust in how you define your audience and what’s important to them. Then, ensure your communication does the same.

Who are you trying to talk to? What do they hold dear? When you know that, you can ditch lazy groupings of values and audiences. When you know that, you’ll find that “Aussie” and “progressive” aren’t mutually exclusive. 

Our values are nuanced. They're degrees and shades. The larrikin is still going to apply to some brands and audiences. Absolutely. But you can portray “Australian-ness” in other ways to other audiences too. 

There’s a danger in thinking “older” Australian is funny and larrikin and anything new and progressive has to be earnest or so international that it doesn’t give you any sense of “Australian-ness” at all. 

You can show a different side of Australian life using that same sense of humour and lightness, you just need to gear it to the values they hold more dear.

Make it feel Aussie? Sure. But make it feel relevant too.

Jon Austin is the executive creative director of Host/Havas


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Host/Havas, Wed, 27 Jul 2022 03:59:27 GMT