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5 iconic Aussie commercials that shaped our culture

17 January 2020

Five iconic Aussie commercials that shaped our culture

In the land down under, we love TV commercials. In fact, a lot of our Aussie slang has come from the most iconic ads in Australian history. The whole country has inside jokes thanks to the wonder of TV. Not that we needed any more reason for foreigners not to understand our Aussie humour.

It’s fair to say that the marketing teams behind these great Aussie ads did a pretty damn good job at getting their message to catch on beyond the living room.

They used catchy sayings and jingles that have become ingrained in society and will be forever associated with their brand. The longevity that these commercials have had throughout several generations is astounding.

As much as digital marketers focus on the latest and greatest methods of advertising, we could all learn from these companies. Let’s dive into the Australian TV commercials archives to look at the campaigns that moulded our culture.


Yellow Pages - “Not Happy Jan!”


The phrase “not happy Jan!” is possibly the most deeply ingrained saying in Australian culture and it all started with a Yellow Pages commercial.

The ‘not happy Jan’ ad was released 20 years ago, in the year 2000. This slogan is used as slang to express a feeling of discontent. In other words, you’d say “not happy Jan!” if you’re really annoyed. 

The commercial shows an angry boss yelling at her assistant who forgot to put their company ad in the Yellow Pages. This was clearly long before digital marketing took off. Unfortunately, given that it was such a long time ago, there isn’t any data available on how successful it was at getting those advertising clients. 

The fact that the phrase has become part of Australian vernacular speaks for itself!


The Cancer Council - Slip! Slop! Slap!


One of the most successful Australian health campaigns is the Slip Slop Slap bird campaign by The Cancer Council. Launched in 1981, melanoma rates were rising and research was being conducted into the link between UV and skin cancer. There was a sense of urgency to get people to protect themselves against harmful cancers. 

Sid the Seagull, an animated bird in board shorts, sings a jingle about slipping on a shirt, slopping on sunscreen and slapping on a hat. Inevitably, slip slop slap became Australia’s way of saying, ‘hey, it’s hot outside!’

The Cancer Council saw a dramatic shift in attitudes towards sun safety since they launched this commercial. This funny little cartoon and slogan has essentially saved lives all across the country! This slogan became part of households, schools and clubs everywhere and is still a commonly used Australian colloquialism almost 40 years later.

Every video idea starts off as a storyboard, you can create your very own 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' with our free Storyboard Template. 


AAMI Insurance - Rhonda & Ketut


Thankfully this commercial was launched in 2012 which means there is data available! Hoorah! What did we do before the internet?

This campaign follows Rhonda, an AAMI customer, flirting with island native Ketut on her exotic holiday.They’re designed to promote AAMI Safe Driver Rewards in which you’re credited a certain percentage for every year that you don’t crash your car, essentially. They’re basically using the enticement of free money for a holiday to get people to sign up!

The iconic line “you look hot today Rhonda… like a sunrise!” became a running joke between Aussie larrikins. A huge 1.18 million of our population travel to places like Indonesia every year, so the relatable setting and humour was the perfect combo.

AAMI advertising agency Ogilvy created this campaign across almost all possible platforms including TV, web and social media. As a result, AAMI experienced an increase of over 20% year-on-year in new business opportunities.

The AAMI Rhonda and Ketut ads have become so ingrained in our culture that recently they went viral again! Australians in lockdown really wanted to know how Rhonda and Ketut were going 8 years after they first hit our screens.



Vegemite - Happy Little Vegemites


This jingle is hands down the best Aussie jingle ever. Could we really write a blog about the most iconic Aussie ads without mentioning one of our best exports!? Vegemite! 

It may be a bitter yeast extract that looks like tar, but to us, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. The Vegemite TVC jingle can probably be recited to some extent in every Aussie household and has withstood the test of time! It was first released in 1956 and later re-released in the 80s where the nostalgic value reignited the jingling flame. The rest is history (literally).


McCain - Super Juicy Corn Cobbettes


Everything about this ad screams Australia. The red dirt outback cottage with a tin roof, the windmill and a farmer in a flanny sitting on a rocking chair on the porch. You can’t get more stereotypical than that, but we love it! 

The team behind this ad seamlessly incorporated the Aussie spirit into this commercial. The theme of an Aussie battler family in the outback enjoying a healthy fresh produce snack encompasses everything you’d want from a frozen food company. It completely masks the fact that McCain frozen foods originated in Canada. Of course, the classic line “Marge, the rains are ‘ere!” is commonly used to let those around you know it’s raining.


How did they do it?

These are some of the best Australian TV ads, and the elements that most of these ads have in common is the use of a jingle and/or humour. Although they are not as often used today, jingles undoubtedly have a way of sticking in our brains. They’re easy to remember, and once you hear it enough times, you’ll recall it forever!

We might have to do another blog all on Australian TV ad songs so I can plug the iconic Lazaro’s Dog “Home Entertainment System”.

Good advertising works through the ‘emotive appeal’ technique. This means that it has the ability to transport people to a more nostalgic, joyful time. Whether that be through a corny jingle or a classic Aussie one-liner, it grabs onto our cerebral cortex and makes us feel nostalgic. 

These ads transport us back to a simpler time, and that can be replicated in any form of advertising. It’s like how smell and taste can remind you of happy moments from your past and change your mood in an instant! 

Emotional marketing inspires people to act through their senses, which in these examples, has been happiness and empathy. You can use things like fear and anger also, but keeping things light-hearted is always a great option (if it’s relevant, of course). The Cancer Council could have taken a more serious approach to their skin cancer ad, but then we wouldn’t have that classic ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ slogan! 

We may seem like complex beings, but in reality, all we want is to feel joyful and sometimes, harnessing laughter can help you sell stuff. It sounds sinister, but it's really not, I swear. People are happy to give their business to a company with ads that can make me smile. 

Australia has produced some of the most memorable television commercials of all time. No matter how simple or mundane they may seem, they’ve managed to stick themselves in our vocabulary for the foreseeable future. Nothing compares to these absolute rippers! 

Our creative team can leverage emotional marketing to create campaigns that resonate with your customers. If you’re looking for some help to execute your next digital marketing campaign, book an exploratory call with us!

Ryan Jones

Ryan is the Founder & CEO of Refuel Creative. He's a HubSpot certified marketer and SEO expert.