GLOBAL BRIEF: Australians couldn’t give a XXXX for republic vote - Aussies have had their fill of referendum advertising bumph, Karen Yates writes

Getting rid of the Queen is easier said than done, as Australians are finding to their cost - a cost that has amounted to some Ausdollars 25 million (pounds 12 million) of the government’s money over the past couple of weeks alone.

Getting rid of the Queen is easier said than done, as Australians

are finding to their cost - a cost that has amounted to some Ausdollars

25 million (pounds 12 million) of the government’s money over the past

couple of weeks alone.



This is the sum that has so far been spent on advertising for this

weekend’s referendum on whether or not Australia should say ’yes’ to

becoming a republic and dumping the British monarch as its head of

state. Along the way, it has also made Australian advertising history

with the largest - and probably most boring - direct mail job ever.



The referendum is generating the biggest case of overkill this

century.



Australians have been under siege from all directions: an ad blitz on

TV, on the radio and in the press from the ’yes’ Committee, the ’no’

Committee and, as if that weren’t enough, by a generic campaign to raise

awareness of the referendum.



The Australian Electoral Committee has taken it upon itself to deliver a

copy of the constitution to every home in the country, a job that has

been curing insomnia from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and prompted a

nationwide paper shortage. However, its above-the-line counterparts have

fared little better in attracting interest for the big vote.



The problem is that both the ’yes’ and the ’no’ campaigns are being run

more like an American presidential race, with communications made up of

around 50 per cent raw emotion, and 50 per cent tactical ads. The ’yes’

campaign, for example, opened with a 60-second tear-jerker by Singleton

Ogilvy & Mather in Sydney which featured a series of ordinary Aussie

battlers going about their everyday business to the strains of We are

Australian, a well-known Australian song, apparently.



The ’nos’, in contrast, are leaning heavily on the old maxim: ’If it

ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Created by a little-known Melbourne agency

called Nancarrow, the spots simply suggest it’s best to leave things as

they are, and it is a tactic that looks in danger of winning. As

Campaign went to press the ’nos’ were just shaving it, although perhaps

not so much because of the advertising, but because Australians have a

history of preferring to leave things be. They haven’t said ’yes’ in a

major referendum since 1967 - and that was to give Aborigines the

vote.



Meanwhile referendum awareness ads through the Euro RSCG Partnership in

Sydney have added to the general overkill. These commercials show a

couple driving along an empty road in the outback. Along the verge they

see a host of road signs warning them there’s a referendum up ahead, and

when they reach a T junction a sign indicates one direction for the

republic and another for keeping the Queen. Australian newspapers have

made it the butt of their jokes about referendum ennui: one cartoon last

week, for example, summed up the mood when it showed the referendum

couple crashed up against the referendum road sign: ’Sorry love,’ the

driver was saying apologetically, ’I fell asleep.’