JWT’s AnxietyIndex is designed as a place to discuss how brands and consumers are responding to the global recession. With daily content updates, AnxietyIndex.com includes contributions from around JWT’s network, offering a truly global perspective.
The ongoing “Beer Economy” campaign from Tooheys New beer is based around the idea that beer is Australia’s second, unofficial currency: If someone does you a favor, you thank them with a few beers, and the official currency here is Toohey’s New (or so it goes). “Tooheys New Crew,” the CSR component, connects a team of tradesmen and volunteers to communities, where they work on “building projects that will make a difference.” Every contribution is measured in its beer equivalent, and the goal is to reach a million beers’ worth of favors. The brand’s YouTube channel showcases their efforts, such as a recent project for a local Rugby League Club.
The idea of doing good in the community fits well within the campaign but is also a refreshing example of a CSR endeavor whose tangible results consumers can see for themselves. The timing is right, given that Australians currently have a difficult relationship with big business. Retail chains have not passed along the falling cost of imports brought about by the strong Australian dollar; mining companies are compulsorily acquiring farmers’ land to establish damaging coal seam gas wells; and a recent study shows resolute condemnation of big business’s response to this year’s Queensland floods. Plus, the widespread expectation among today’s consumers is that “Companies need to do more good, not just less bad,” as a recent JWT study found (for more on the study, see our new “Social Good” report).
Everything costs a fortune in Australia. Seriously—electricity and petrol have risen 70 percent in the last five years, and a train ride from Sydney’s airport to the city takes more than an hour to earn on Australia’s minimum wage. Any Australian can tell you prices for things that used to be bastions of unpretentious affordability—like the meat pie, the thong (the kind that goes on your foot) or a train ticket—but are now just another thing that empties your pocket.
A lighthearted new commercial from the underwear brand Rio gives Australians permission to be cheap when it comes to their underthings, making it look silly to splurge on items that have become unnecessarily upscale. “They’re not an investment—you don’t pass them down to your kids!” the voiceover reminds viewers, concluding with the line “Let’s put some reality back into underwear.” Practicality rules in today’s New Normal climate, and brands with a value offer have plenty of opportunity to position themselves as a modern refuge of affordability.
Australians are stuck in the middle of a tussle between the tobacco industry and the government, which is seeking to mandate plain (unbranded) cigarette packaging. The tobacco manufacturers cannot appeal to the sympathy of the public in opposing these measures, so they’re appealing instead to the growing anxiety that Australian society is becoming over-regulated, or a “nanny state.” Australia doesn’t have a bill of rights, which means existing civil liberties always appear to be under threat whenever new regulations are proposed. (Wrote a Sydney Morning Herald columnist recently: “Ours was a history of extending freedom, of resisting and repelling the enforcement of conformity. Now, we stand by and witness the curtailment of the many for the protection of the few.”)
While 2011 Newspoll telephone research shows that more than half of Australians are in favor of plain packaging for cigarettes, positioning this as another example of our eroding civil liberties strikes a nerve. “More and more, the government is telling us what we should and shouldn’t do,” notes the campaign’s website. The TV spot shows a severe woman labeled “nanny” who declares, “I make the rules around here!” A voice argues that he’s over 18 and that “it’s legal,” but is warned to “Do as you’re told!” The campaign may well gain support for the opposition, even if the tobacco industry is clearly more concerned with keeping its brands than with the liberties of the Australian people.
Following the catastrophic floods at the start of the year, the Queensland tourism board has undertaken a campaign of unprecedented size to draw travelers back to the Australian state, which relies heavily on tourism. The disaster saw a tremendous initial outpouring of public generosity and nationalist pride, but subsequent natural disasters and current events have pushed the floods off the front pages. Six commercials directly address various concerns over the readiness of the natural draw-cards to support tourists once again, presenting a holiday to Queensland as not only a rewarding treat for yourself but a way to help the state get back on its feet. The campaign has also included national TV shows broadcasting live from Queensland venues to amplify the message of “Nothing beats Queensland.”
Obesity and the health of a rapidly aging population are a growing concern for the Australian government. Australian citizens are also worried about their health, according to our AnxietyIndex data, and overwhelmingly report paying closer attention to it than in previous years. Despite this, Australia’s waist band continues to grow.
One problem is that frustration around successfully managing weight leads many to abandon aspirations of a healthy lifestyle altogether. In response, the Australian government’s “Swap It, Don’t Stop It” campaign (out of JWT Melbourne) takes a new approach, making a healthy lifestyle seem more easily achievable. The idea is to emphasize “small, everyday changes” (ones that “can add up and make all the difference”) over self-denial—for example, Australians are urged to swap sitting for moving, with simple suggestions like “Park the car further away,” and “often for sometimes” when it comes to fried food, fizzy drinks and the like. By making healthier habits seem more sustainable and less daunting for average Australians, the campaign takes some anxiety out of adopting new behaviors.
The cost of living in Australia is high and continues to rise, so the idea of working Australians living paycheck to paycheck is nothing new. What is new is the growing number of Australians who would love to be living paycheck to paycheck, if only their paycheck would last through to their next. In part this is because Australians are trying to reduce their reliance on credit, with credit card use falling for the first time in a decade—suggesting that cash-flow problems may previously have been hidden by credit card use.
Businesses such as pawnbrokers and credit unions are positioning themselves as solutions to consumers’ cash flow problems with specific bridging propositions like—in the case of one Cash Converters commercial—“Who says you’re short this month?” For the first time we’re seeing pawnbrokers targeting full-time workers with steady incomes through wide-reaching channels like TV, as is the case with payday lender Cash First, which has not previously communicated to working Australians.