Is Australian retail advertising the worst?

Advertising in general falls into two categories – product advertising and brand advertising.

Television is naturally the medium of choice for many retailers. It is active, visual and instant. And it is cringeworthy. I am a proud Australian, but when I view many of our retail ads on television I am embarrassed to call Australia my retail home.

Let us start with Lowes. I believe that its advertising is handled in house and that no agency is involved. Just as well, because that agency would otherwise be facing bankruptcy. The Uncreative Director, whoever that may be, should consider a career in politics. This would result in less damage to the “country Australian brand”, and that is a bold statement.

Moving right along let’s have a look at another favourite – Harvey Norman. I understand that this is also handled in house. Could there perhaps be a common thread here? We had Gerry himself on years ago, which has thankfully stopped (nothing like getting a promotion if you put the boss in the ads). The Harvey Norman ads are now so boring and repetitive that I suspect they are close to useless. Again, the Uncreative Director may like to consider a career move before it is too late.

Supercheap Auto tried using the then boss, Bob Thorn, years ago. What is it about some CEOs ? Are they simply would-be actors, or do they genuinely believe that they do a good job?

But not all is doom and gloom. Woolworths ran a fantastic brand campaign a few months ago using Gossling (Helen Croome) singing the 1940s classic, “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I love you”, in her lovely and unusual voice.

The series of ads were warm and light hearted and the tune was very catchy. Regrettably they have now resorted to a kind of mish mash in their ads with Gossling trying her best to be heard somewhere in the background.

The Coles “Down Down” campaign which has been running for some time now is solid. It is starting to get a little tired but it is not cringeworthy – yet. Both Myer and David Jones are a huge yawn. Depending on how you define retail, Commonwealth Bank has a good creative director behind them. The ads are always eye catching and fun.

The jury is out on Kmart, Big W and Target. Undoubtedly the Target logo is used to good effect. Pity that their reputation for quality at reasonable prices has taken a bit of a battering.

Bunnings is running a close second to Harvey Norman in terms of repetition and boredom, and The Good Guys are not far behind. There is one campaign that stands out, again bending the rules a little because it is not strictly what we call retail.

It is the AAMI campaign using Rhonda and Ketut. It has been an evolving love story. Rhonda’s sunburnt face and the white sunglass area are starting to fade.

Everyone is dying to know whether Ketut actually kissed Rhonda and if the relationship will continue.

This is a brilliant campaign. states “The AAMI advertising campaign featuring Rhonda and Ketut has captured the attention of the public like no other campaign in recent times”.

There are so many ‘good’ advertisements, but after viewing them, one cannot remember the advertiser. The AAMI ads do not suffer from this. Another aspect of advertising that many retailers overlook is the frequency of advertisements, which contributes to the boredom factor.

For example, it would be interesting to see the impact if Harvey Norman were to halve its number of ads and spend that money on creativity and originality.

To view a few top ads, visit

 Unfortunately a few of the ads are not accessible, but there is enough food for thought.

Also view the Fedex ad, which is one of the best, and finally see the OfficeMax Back to School Penny Pranks campaign at

Australian retailers need to raise their game, a lot, so we can all be proud to call Australia our retail home.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing. Email



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