Complaints fly as MLA lamb ad attracts record online views

Terry Sim, January 12, 2016


A KALE-KILLING Australia Day lamb advertisement has had a record response, with more than 1.2 million views in the two days since it was launched.

In the MLA 2016 Never Lamb Alone video, SBS news reader Lee Lin Chin is the mastermind of Operation Boomerang, portrayed spending Australia Day 1996 in a freezing Warsaw without “a chargrilled chop in sight” and vowing to never let that happen to another Australian again.

She leads a rescue mission — including Sam Kekovich as a helicopter pilot and NOVA radio broadcasters Fitzy and Wippa – to save as many overseas Aussies as possible from a lambless Australia Day.

But about 300 complaints have been received by the Advertising Standards Bureau, protesting about scenes including the “light-hearted” flamethrower torching of a vegan’s kale bunch, commando raids on apartments to extract Aussies home for Australia Day and the use of the ‘Operation Boomerang’ title.

MLA defends lamb ads satirical nature

MLA’s group marketing manager Andrew Howie said MLA never set out to offend anyone with the campaign.

“Since its inception it has always teetered on the edge of controversy, but ultimately it is designed to embody the Australian spirit and the nature of being able to have a laugh at ourselves.”

“It has certainly built up a bit of momentum.”

Mr Howie said if he had thought the flamethrower scene was violent he wouldn’t have included it in the final footage.

“I think the satirical nature of the campaign is a really important point.”

Mr Howie said while MLA’s campaigns were often controversial, it took advertising self-regulation very seriously.

“We follow the Advertising Standards Bureau code closely.”

He said MLA’s legal representatives would review the footage and the complaints to put forward its case to the ASB as soon as possible, so the bureau board could respond.

“It’s not the end of the world; the worst-case scenario is that we will have to make minor edits of very small parts …. we’re talking about possibly about 1-2 seconds of the total campaign.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better response really and at the end of the day the campaign’s success is measured on sales,” Mr Howie said.

“Last year’s campaign saw a 35 percent increase in sales and if the response from the population is any indication of where sales are going to go this year, then we hope that farmers are going to see fantastic value back at the farmgate.”

Advertising Standards Bureau submission date next week

An ASB spokeswoman said the complaints have mainly centred around discrimination against vegans and other races, and issues of violence such use of a flamethrower and “breaking into people’s homes”.

The spokeswoman said an ASB board made up of community members would rule on the complaints and MLA’s response at its next meeting, determining whether the Advertiser Code of Ethics had been breached. MLA had until next week to make its submission to the ASB.

Most of the complaints relate to Section 2 of the code, pertaining to discrimination and vilification of people or sections of the community, and the portrayal of violence in the context of the product or service advertised.

Some people have also complained about the use of the phrase ‘Operation Boomerang’ as being insensitive and “out of context”, she said.

Mid-week Australia day is a challenge for marketers

Mr Howie said Australia Day, January 26, falling on a Tuesday this year, at the end of a potential long weekend, represented a marketing challenge and the domestic protein market was “pretty tight.” But the 2016 campaign was using multiple cues to diversify demand for other lamb cuts beside cutlets. The number of online views, its coverage and shares the video had received showed it was resonating with consumers, he said.

“The metrics are going the right way, the conversation out there is like we’ve never seen before and the ad has managed to trend on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook.

“So far with the consumers among the consumers around the country, we are confident we will be able to deliver some strong results for the farmers, which is why we do this each year.”

Mr Howie said it was important to remember that only “a very small part” of the community was complaining.

“The overwhelming balance is in the positive.

“It has been viewed over 1.2 million times (on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter ) in two days – that’s the most successful Australian ad campaign on record form that point of view in 48 hours,” he said.

“That surpasses Lambnesia and the Richie Benaud ad, which had about 1.2 million views over the whole period (up to Australia Day).”

Mr Howie said MLA “struck gold” with the Richie Benaud-based campaign last year, hitting “a lot of notes” about Australia’s history, though it also drew some ire about the way that was depicted.

“Some feedback was that it needed to have a more multi-cultural feel to it and we took that feedback on board.

“We are always listening and we are always looking to improve,” he said.

“With that in mind we tried to make sure that this year’s campaign had a broader appeal and Lee Lin Chin with her unique background and diverse appeal was the perfect choice for the lead.”

Mr Howie said Sam Kekovich would always be the “hero Lambassador as long as he is around.”


Click here to receive a free daily news alert from Sheep Central.




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Trish Brown, January 14, 2016

    And bugger to those who eat meat, but it’s your business if you want to consume a food that is suspect of causing all sorts of cancer in humans. Me, I will just keep on enjoying my daily plate of vegetables and fruit, and especially kale!!!

  2. So what if they are offended. That is their problem. 300 complaints out of 1.2 million views. Tough. Four football fields of forest are lost each year so they can eat tofu (soya Bean) in Asia. Stephen Fry said if you are offended by what I say …so what. That is your problem. Full names required in future for reader comments please Ben, as per our long-standing comments policy: Editor

  3. Natasha Wing, January 13, 2016

    There are always going to be people that won’t like elements of advertising – but from the Youtube views it appears the majority love it! Maybe they could drop in a mob of sheep to eat the kale instead!

  4. Michael Craig, January 13, 2016

    Fantastic Australian campaign. From a producer’s perspective good levy spend…bugger the vegans.

Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -