Though, looking back at the assorted campaigns that rolled out during the lead up to the postal survey, it’s fair to say the work was, with very few exceptions, pretty average for what is such a powerfully emotive subject. Advertising agency Canberra When you look back at other landmark social issue ads such as the Grim Reaper commercial during the HIV/AIDS era, I am pretty sure none of us will be talking about any of this work in 30 years’ time.
Probably the biggest production for the Yes campaign showed a growing band of Aussies marching down to the local postbox to pop their envelopes in the slot. Though, even an appearance by Thorpie couldn’t lift the execution to match the emotional power of the Irish same-sex marriage referendum spot it was modelled on. It came down to like-minded big brands such as ANZ with its fantastic, ‘Hold tight’ campaign to deliver great and timely work.
One of the major and most polarising talking points of the campaign was the ‘Say No to No’ campaign. The concept was basically a petition to creative agencies, media companies, photographers and directors to not do any work promoting the NO campaign.
And this is where we get to the weird juncture in this story.
I remember when one of our art directors came to tell me about it and it immediately sat uncomfortably with me. While myself and the agency, by definition, were passionate supporters of the Yes campaign, there was something just not right about signing up to a petition that sought to restrict the No campaign’s access the persuasion and production skills of our industry. While I think it was successful in its aim of further ostracising the No camp, I don’t believe it did our industry any favours when the story was picked up and reported in the mainstream media.
Surely the ambition of advertising is to be the place where big ideas go into battle?
Where brands, organisations and causes try to out-reason each other?
To provide informed and compelling arguments rather than just gag, stifle or shut down the other side of the debate? I would argue that the initiative could have done more harm than good, with fair-minded mainstream Aussies preferring to hear both sides of a debate before making up their own minds.