Unless you were ‘off the grid’ on your way to Everest Base Camp over the past few weeks you will have heard all about Woolies, and their clumsy attempt to commercialise Anzac Day.
Woolworths launched a social media campaign ‘Fresh in our memories’ where they asked people in the community to share a memory of someone affected by war and then it would be overlaid with a ‘Lest we Forget – Anzac 1915-2015. Fresh in our Memories’ message. Oh and the Woolies logo too. In a stunning error of judgement they attempted to tie their ‘Woolworths – The Fresh Food People’ slogan in with an Anzac commemoration. Of course, they were slammed in the media, on social media and even had the Minister for Veteran Affairs, Michael Ronaldson threaten to fine them $50,000. The campaign was quickly withdrawn.
Whilst it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and vilify Woolies for their behaviour and leave it at that, it has actually been an excellent catalyst for discussion around this subject.
Have other marketers attempted to leverage Anzac Day to their commercial advantage?
If so, are other examples inappropriate too?
Should Anzac Day be left alone by marketers?
What are the rules of engagement in social media?
Is this sort of behaviour subject to rules and if so then who polices it?
Well, for a start Woolies aren’t on their own.
There are stacks of marketers sidling up to Anzac Day.
VB promotes its brand and its beer with its ‘Raise A Glass’ campaign. Ok, so we should drink your beer to acknowledge the 80,000 troops who died in the First World War? Hmm.
The National Rugby League is running a Rugby League bonanza over Anzac Day with ’10 Teams, 5 Games, 10 Hours, 2 Countries. The Warriors play the Gold Coast Titans in New Zealand at 12 midday. This is followed by Newcastle vs. The Cowboys at 2pm, The Roosters vs. St George at 4pm, Melbourne Storm plays Manly at 6pm and then finally the Broncos play Parramatta at 8pm.
The NRL calls the Anzac round a ‘celebration of heroes at Gallipoli and Anzac Cove’. Yeah right.
And many of Australia’s footy teams are selling Anzac branded jerseys including the North Queensland Cowboys, St Kilda, the Newcastle Knights, the Fremantle Dockers, The Brisbane Lions, the Canberra Raiders and the list goes on. Should we be comfortable with them profiting from the sale of merchandise in this way?
Someone who isn’t comfortable is the founder of the Poppies for Profit blog who names and shames companies who cross the line in this area.
Retailer Target is another offender with their ‘Official Camp Gallipoli Store’ where they sell stubbie coolers, t-shirts, duffle bags, hoodies and a range of other Anzac branded products.
I guess one way we can feel better about this commercialisation of Anzac Day is to better understand what benefit, if any, the community receives from a marketer’s involvement.
Apparently VB donates $1m to Legacy and the Returned Soldiers League.
Target donates all profits from their Official Camp Gallipoli Store to the Camp Gallipoli Foundation, a not-for-profit, who supports RSL and Legacy.
With these initiatives driving fundraising I’m slightly more comfortable with brands attaching themselves to Anzac Day. But outright commercialising of the Anzacs is just not right in my book.
To me it should be about respect, commemoration and reflection on what these everyday Australians gave to us. We owe our freedom, our independence and our way of life to all those brave men and women.
War is not to be celebrated – and certainly not by brands.
That’s why the term Brandzac Day strikes a chord with me. It neatly highlights the issue for us all to consider.
What do you think?
Paul Cornwell is a Managing Director at BCM
P.s. For the record, our agency is very proud to have worked with the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs on developing the ‘100 Years of Anzac – The Spirit Lives 2014 – 2018’ logo.