IT'S surf versus turf in the battle of the barbies, as two popular food items go tong-to-tong in the run-up to Christmas, reports The Australian Financial Review
In the red-in-the-middle corner is BMF's new beef campaign for Meat and Livestock Australia, whilst in the translucent pink corner rivals Droga5 offer up their latest effort for Woolworths and prawns.
One ad features radio host Merrick Watts on a passionate crusade to have one of Australia's most iconic ads remade, while the other ad features a woman who fancies herself as a, er, Prawn Whisperer.
Creatively both ads pull out all the stops. BMF has a celebrity, a great idea, plenty of viral potential, a strong visual mnemonic along with the ubiquitous online component.
Droga5 on the other hand has gone for quirky production values, quirky music and quirky photography in order to cover the lack of a decent insight.
The beef ad starts with Watts striding down a suburban street in his thongs and open shirt dragging a Weber on wheels in one hand and clutching a megaphone in the other. His mission? To get us to sign his petition to amend the famous Paul Hogan tourism ad of the 1980s featuring prawns.
Watts takes to the steps of Parliament House, preaching to a crowd of one. "This nation was built on beef, and we know how to barbie! I'm making it my mission to set the record straight. Let's remake the ad! This summer, throw another steak on the barbie!"
Although MLA group marketing manager Andrew Cox says he's not positioning seafood as the enemy, and insists the ad is simply challenging the myth about prawns being the staple for the barbie – it's a subtle distinction.
People may choose both products on occasions, but I suspect mostly it's one or the other.
So nicking a popular catchphrase from a rival product and claiming it for yourself is a sticky idea that will no doubt be overheard many times during the summer.
The insight? "If you don't have beef on the barbecue, you can't call it a barbecue."
Certain creative and strategic elements are reminiscent of MLA's and BMF's successful Sam Kekovich campaigns for lamb: the "crusade" (lamb reclaimed Australia Day from all things un-Australian); the knockabout humour; the larrikin spokesperson; and of course the barbie. (Kekovich's most recent outing was a song called Barbie Girl).
But Cox is quick to draw clear distinctions between the two brand personalities.
"Lamb is cheekier," he says. "This is more about a 'casual superiority', with a degree of jocularity. Watts is more of a heroic character than Kekovich."
Whether Woolworths' prawn ad will have anything like the same broad appeal is debatable.
A golden rule of food advertising is "don't play jokes with the product". Yet here we have a contrived situation with a woman obsessed with prawns (hate to think what the house smells like) who dreams up all sorts of fancy, punning dishes.
The brief is clearly to show diversity of usage, but the only vaguely appetizing shot is of barbecued prawns. Increasingly contrived, this campaign yearns to be loved.
But this time its quirky character is no match for an authentic, likable larrikin.