News that the Auditor General has found the government’s carbon tax ad campaign breached financial regulations and was largely ineffective has sent a resounding shockwave throughout the advertising and PR industries.
"The idea that we should be expected to stick to telling the truth in our ads goes against everything we stand for," said Bobby Spinne, chairman and chief creative officer of The Funky Ideas Factory, AdWorld’s runner-up in the 2004 Hot New Names To Watch Category. "After all, as it makes clear on our website we are one of the most highly awarded ad agencies in the southern hemisphere, and have won more trophies and industry accolades than all our competitors put together, on top of which we are to our mind Australia’s leading agency for digital effectiveness and creative innovation as well one of the most strategic ad shops in the world thanks to our unique (and patented) Strato-think planning methodology. It’s not as if we require exaggeration and hyperbole to get our message across."
Denying that there was anything misleading in his headline "Why polar bears will get down on their knees and thank all Australians for the carbon tax," Mr Spinne took issue with the Auditor General’s findings that there was "no clear line of sight" between 52 of the claims made in the advertisements and the actual facts as they pertained to the introduction of the new legislation.
"At this agency, unlike all our rip-off competitors, we pride ourselves on the thoroughness of our approach in getting to the heart of the brief. Both at a strategic and a creative level we leave no stone unturned in our effort to dig out the nuggets of a compelling insight. For example, before we even discussed the carbon tax brief I made sure the entire agency sat down on a Friday night with a few bottles of red and watched the extraordinarily truthful, very moving and highly informative documentary by renowned international climate expert Al Gore, which I was able to download for free off the internet. On top of that, we consulted widely with such local experts on the matter as Cate Blanchett - via her 30 second infomercial "Spinning Windmills" - and Michael Caton, renowned authority on living in a house directly underneath the flight path, where, let's face it, massive damage is daily done to despoil the environment.”
Minister for Climate Change and No Change Out of $20 million Greg Combet denied that the awarding of the campaign to Mr Spinne's agency had been done in a panicky rush and without adhering to adequate processes and preparation. "I'm sure I jotted down a complete budget breakdown and costs summary somewhere on the back of one of those coaster thingies that you put your drinks on in the business lounge," he said. When questioned as to why the household mailout distribution contract appeared to have been awarded to a different person in the DCCEE system than the agency that carried out the work, Combet was quick to point out that "all these advertising types with their black jeans and silly tee shirts look the same to me."
Countering doubts expressed about his expertise in marketing strategies, Combet was quick to dismiss the suggestion that he had been taken for a ride. “I make it my job to stay on top of these things. I am a big fan of the ‘Gruen Transfer’ and I’ve even got the box set of ‘Mad Men.’ There’s no way some slick ad guy is going to pull the wool over my eyes.”
Taking issue with the findings that the campaign "did not translate into high levels of action" Mr Spinne cited anecdotal evidence that whenever the ads were aired most people leapt to their feet and threw something - usually the remote - at their TV screens. "Without a doubt, this sort of consumer engagement with the core selling message was a huge plus for our client," he said.
Insisting that the shortcomings in the ads highlighted by the Auditor General would “in no way” be an impediment to him seeking further federal contracts, Mr Spinne was keen to point out that his agency was already putting the final touches to an exciting new government pitch. “I can’t reveal too much at this stage,” he said, tapping the side of his nose, “but I’ve written this awesome headline: ‘How the NBN will make everybody who signs up an instant millionaire.”
In an unrelated event, advertising icon Louie the Fly revealed that he would soon be returning to work at Mortein, unlike his fellow workers all of whom have been sacked.