G-O-G-G-O: Tommy Dysart has a problem with his Goggomobil.
Truly great TV ads go beyond merely selling stuff – they lodge in the mind to become part of the national psyche. Here’s our pick of the standout from each of the past five decades.
1960s: Louie the Fly/Mortein
The iconic Louie the Fly first buzzed onto TV screens in 1957 with his catchy introduction: “I’m Louie the Fly, straight from rubbish tip to you.” The campaign was the creation of a young copywriter named Bryce Courtenay and it is testimony to the quality of the original concept that Louie continues to be a key part of Mortein’s advertising. The genius behind Courtenay’s idea was to take a potentially icky, off-putting concept – the threat of disease from flies – and wrap it up in a jolly animation that still gave the audience the message that Mortein would fix the problem. Advertising lore has it that 24-year-old Courtenay scribbled out the idea for the Louie ads in the back of a cab on the way to present to Bill Graham, the famously irascible boss of the company that made Mortein.
Mortein: Louie the fly.
1970s: VB Bitter
Long before beer became a nightmare of a hundred different brands served by bearded hipster barmen, cracking open a bottle of sandwiches was a far simpler affair. In fact, if you bought into the VB mythology and its catchy ads pointing out the myriad macho ways in which you could work up a thirst, there was only one option. With its swelling theme music that could have escaped from a John Wayne movie, the VB ads expertly implied drinking beer was not only a fine thing to do but was also pretty much the patriotic duty of any red-blooded Aussie. And there was no room for doubt in that definitive statement that a “hard-earned thirst needs a big cold beer and the best cold beer is … Vic”.
Matter of fact, I’ve got it now …
1980s: The Grim Reaper
It’s 1987 and the hysteria surrounding AIDS is at its height. In a desperate effort to shake heterosexuals out of their complacency, the federal government produced the now notorious Grim Reaper ad. Whiz-kid Siimon Reynolds came up with the idea of depicting the disease as a scythe-wielding bogyman scattering human skittles in a bowling alley. “We didn’t have special effects back in those days, so we literally built a 5-foot or 6-foot-high (1.5 metres to 1.8 metres) bowling ball and rolled it down at real people,” Reynolds later told the ABC. “I thought, ‘Surely they’re not going to run this’.” But run it they did. The controversial advert did its job, putting the threat of AIDS front and centre in the minds of the public, but it also provoked an ugly backlash against gay men, who became conflated in the minds of some with the Grim Reaper.
1990s: Yellow Pages
G-O-G-G-O … it’s almost impossible not to warm to the sentiment in this classic feel-good ad. Scottish character actor Tommy Dysart has a problem with his Goggomobil (Not the Dart. Most emphatically not the Dart) and he turns to the Yellow Pages to find someone who can help. His childish delight when he connects with a fellow Goggomobil nerd is beautifully infectious as is his final line, “It’s a wee ripper!” Later, Dysart and his instantly recognisable accent turned up spruiking insurance for motor insurer Shannons, briefly incurring the legal wrath of Telstra, who accused the company of pinching their idea.
2000s: Sam Kekovich lamb
“There’s nothing worse than being un-Australian – I should know, I’ve been Australian all my life.” So deadpans former AFL legend Sam Kekovich in 2005 in the first of what was to become a long series of ads. Kekovich was speaking up in defence of the great Aussie tradition of eating lamb on Australia Day. The fact that up until then no one had ever heard of this tradition is not the point. If Big Sam says that’s what we do, then who is going to disagree? It’s hard to argue with Sam’s logic. “Do you think the Diggers in the trenches were fighting for tofu sausages?” he asks. Well, do you? Over the past decade, regular reinforcement of this supposed national custom has turned it into an almost tradition, which makes the folk at Meat & Livestock Australia very happy.