One Green Bean, Havas Labs, Host/Havas, and global Amazon agency, Rufus, recently launched an integrated campaign to “Aussify Alexa,” adding a whole new host of Australian lingo to its vernacular to raise its presence in the smart speaker market.
Host/Havas’s Executive Creative Director, Jon Austin, spoke to Dare! about humour, expanding his vocabulary, and the campaign from start to finish.
Tell us where the idea for the campaign came from?
Amazon Alexa is a client of our good mates at One Green Bean, and they had the brilliant idea to Aussify Alexa. Working together, we turned that idea into a campaign designed to make Alexa less of a lifeless AI assistant *cough Google cough*, and more of an entertaining mate that understood how to add value to our uniquely Aussie way of life.
Why were media personality Sophie Monk and comedy duo The Inspired Unemployed good fits for this campaign?
Smart speaker adoption is going through the roof in Australia. In fact, our adoption rates have surpassed the US, which is pretty nuts. The two core audiences buying them are affluent Aussie families and tech-savvy Gen Z-ers. Looking at those two audiences, they matched up really perfectly to our talent. Sophie Monk is a 90’s popstar-turned-Aussie icon whose Down Under charm has made her a darling amongst slightly older Australians. The Inspired Unemployed guys have built an insane Gen Z following on social media over the last year. The second their names came up, we realised they would be the perfect primary talent for the campaign. But we’ve also had a whole raft of other brilliant talent get involved and put Alexa to the test in their own ways. It’s been great seeing these creative, hilarious people dimensionalise the idea.
This was a collaborative campaign involving Host/Havas, One Green Bean (OGB) and Havas Labs. Do you think that made it stronger?
I absolutely do. We have a long history with OGB (with both Host and One Green Bean being founded by Anthony Freedman here in Australia) and we’re always looking for new and interesting projects to collaborate on. We share a Head of Production (Alistair Ferrier), who has a long track record with both agencies. We’re able to have honest chats – without any agency ego or politics – and get under each other’s skin to figure out how best to operate. That kind of close working relationship is always great, but it’s particularly valuable when navigating unexpected challenges. And this campaign had plenty of those. The Inspired Unemployed guys were in New Zealand when the Trans-Tasman bubble closed suddenly, leaving them stranded in the beautiful, but remote ski town of Queenstown, three days out from the shoot. Working together, we had to pool our resources (and contacts) to find a new location, a new production outfit that could run suitably skeletally to work with COVID restrictions, and completely redesign the scenes on the fly. Plus, in between scenes, we had to figure out how to block out stunning, panoramic NZ mountains and make the guys’ place feel suitably Australian. It was hectic, but a brilliant reminder of what a strong, collaborative relationship can do.
Do you think creating a funny ad is harder work?
I think humour is fragile, spontaneous and subjective, and those qualities are challenging to keep intact in any environment with a regimented approval process. It’s not as simple as telling a joke – it’s about convincing multiple stakeholders that the joke is as funny as you think it is. That being said, I think that, just like anything else we create, making a funny ad is entirely dependent on who we work with. Someone once told me that you can’t create great work in spite of a client – you have to create it with them. I totally subscribe to that. Whether it’s funny, or dramatic, or scary and new, having a team that really buys into what you’re trying to achieve doesn’t just make the process easier – it makes it super fun.
Did you learn any new phrases while working on the campaign?
I did. And I was constantly reminded that Aussie vernacular is weird. Really weird. It’s like Clockwork Orange with longer vowels and a better tan. (I’m a Kiwi, so I’m not just allowed to hassle our Trans-Tasman cousins – it’s a mandatory part of my NZ citizenship).
Fortunately, Host/Havas creative Gwen Thomas isn’t just a brilliant copywriter; she’s about as quintessentially Australian as you can get. So she was able to translate her scripts and explain to me that ‘swoopy boys’ are magpies, ‘men in grey suits’ are sharks and ‘how ya going’ isn’t a question, but a commentary on dubious weather.
What has been the response to the campaign?
The campaign has only been in market for a few weeks, but the response has been fantastic. It’s been extensively covered by the nation’s biggest publications and has led to some really interesting conversations around colloquialism and cultural barriers.