How brands are telling us who they see as ‘Aussie’
The AFL Grand Final aired this month, one of the most valuable ad spots on TV.
During this year’s Grand Final, two ads stood out for very different reasons. Both ads try to tap into the idea of being ‘Australian’ but take very different approaches.
Pale, male and stale: BlueBet’s take on the ‘The Aussie Way’
The first ad comes to us from BlueBet called ‘The Aussie Way’. The ad is set in a pub and asks, “what makes us Australian?”, featuring a cast of mostly white men. A woman is momentarily visible before being obscured by a streaker; she is also seen high-fiving another woman in the background of the final shot.
Like most betting apps, BlueBet’s audience is most likely predominantly male and this ad is clearly leaning into that target audience, but the men in the ad represent to a pretty narrow group? The ad is a pretty sad take on Aussie men, even if it is trying to be funny. But we can get to that analysis another time.
We concede that there’s nothing wrong with targeting a particular audience, but if an ad is going down the route of asking what makes us Australian and leaving women out, the message it sends is pretty clear. An ad that wants to cash in on ‘The Aussie Way’ is distilling about 51% of the population down to one or two blurred white women.
Inserting one or two women into the background of a pub scene isn’t unique to BlueBet though. It’s actually a common modern stereotype we see in ads today. In shEqual’s new industry resource Gender Stereotypes in Advertising we have identified seven female stereotypes seen in ads today. This ad is an example of ‘The Ticked Box’. Often seen in ads which target male audiences, like ads for gambling apps or beer, The Ticked Box trope involves an almost entirely male cast, with one or two women included in the background to ‘tick the box’. It’s a way for brands to say – see, we included a woman!
But including a blurred woman – or a woman who gets covered by a streaker! – is not inclusion, it’s insulting.
An ad that is bucking the ‘ticked box’ trend is the new ‘Unbelievable’ campaign from Furphy. Two ads in this campaign show a woman in the hero shot drinking beer – almost an entirely new concept for beer ads. The latest ad also shows a female publican telling a story to a man and woman. The ad retains the same humour, lightness and impact as other well-performing beer ads while making sure women are seen in the pub. The ad ranked highly among audiences as ‘unique/distinctive’ according to research from Cubery and should be a lesson for other brands that you can advertise to both men and women in a traditionally male-dominated market. People want to see the pub the way they see it in real life, and you’ll be remembered for that.
A new migrant story: Google ‘Helping you help them’
A starkly different ad from Google, ‘Helping You Help Them’, also played during the Grand Final and tells a very different story about ‘the Australian way’.
The ad shows a migrant father and daughter and is an ode to discovering joy, connection and inclusion through Australian Rules football. After seeing his daughter showing interest in a local football game, the dad does everything he can to nurture her passion
The ad shows her triumphs and scrapes, telling a beautiful story of inclusion in the Australian community through an iconic Aussie pastime.
In the saturated space of Grand Final ads, this one stands out for its ability to tell a distinctive story. The ad highlights the way migrants navigate Australian culture, not in a way that invokes pity, but in a way that celebrates their spirit and football’s strong sense of community.
The all-important Grand Final ad spots always tend to tell an ‘Australian’ story. But what Australia are brands talking to? A white-washed, male-dominated picture from the past or a real look at the Australia of today?