by Alex Nicholson
It’s not often university students get to appear on a television show that is viewed by an average of 1.5 million people. But that is exactly what happened to Olivia Hogan, a student at the University of Technology, Sydney, who recently appeared on the ABC program, Gruen Planet.
Gruen Planet, hosted by comedian Wil Anderson, scrutinises the advertising industry. Experts on the show’s panel, including regulars Russel Howcroft, Executive General Manager of Network Ten, and Todd Sampson, CEO of Leo Burnett Australia, analyse and dissect advertisements and the various techniques used to sell products.
In ‘The Pitch’ segment of the show, two advertising agencies are pitted against each other to create an advertisement for an “unsellable” product or idea. Past unsellable ideas have included supporting child labour, an Australian invasion of New Zealand, and banning all religions.
For the first time, students from UTS and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) replaced agencies to develop an ad campaign to deter would-be asylum seekers, on behalf of fictitious client, Aussies for Stronger Borders.
Ms Hogan teamed up with fellow UTS student Emelie Eriksson to develop the ad, which incorporated xenophobic and profane comments broadcast on Australian talkback radio and spoken by actors to a cheering crowd, concluding with the tagline “Australia: Looks Better From a Distance”.
The ad put forward by rival RMIT students took a more humorous approach, focusing on the dangerous native flora and fauna found in Australia in an attempt to make the country seem like an unattractive place to seek asylum.
Despite the RMIT ad drawing laughs and being well produced, Emelie and Olivia’s pitch was deemed to be the more effective by the panel, with panellist Bram Williams saying the ad got to “the heart of the issue” and Todd Sampson believing their ad more confronting and thought provoking.
For Olivia and Emelie, who are majoring in public relations and advertising and nearing the end of their degrees, being able to showcase their creativity and skill on a show widely renowned in the advertising industry was a dream come true.
“There are other competitions like this one, but Gruen Planet is the top in terms of how the industry thinks. It’s a pretty big achievement,” Olivia says.
As for developing an ad about something so controversial and topical, Olivia says the most challenging aspect was have just three weeks to produce it.
“We had to work day and night just to produce the 30-second clip, and while the idea was ours, we had the help of editors and sound technicians and other postgraduate students from UTS. It was a real team effort,” Olivia says.
According to both Olivia and Emelie, they had concerns about how hard to go on the emotive, controversial message of the ad.
“Even though there is swearing in the ad, I actually wanted to make it harder, but you have to keep holding back and focusing on the message,” Emelie says.
Despite having to deliver the UTS pitch on behalf of herself and Emilie in front of a nationwide audience, Olivia says she was more worried about how she would look and sound than the quality of their ad.
“Yeah, I was thinking ‘shit, I don’t want to look fat on TV, I don’t want to stuff up my lines!’ but then when I got there, and ran through it with Wil, they made me feel so comfortable. To be honest, I didn’t fear putting my face to something like this, because any intelligent person would realise we are selling the unsellable. That’s the idea of this ad,” she says.
Olivia and Emelie agree that their winning pitch has given them an advantage in the competitive employment arena.
“We won a bottle of wine and a trophy – but UTS kept the trophy, they were very keen for it! Beyond that, we’ve now got a reputation and something that will probably help us a lot when we go for jobs after uni. That’s priceless, you can’t really get that anywhere else, can you?” Olivia asks.
Nice job, Alex. Your structure and narrative flow are efficient – but I am not keen on your