Jan 10, 2013

Is “Stevo” not Aussie enough for the new Macca’s ad?

The tennis and Australia Day both have the capacity to drive people nuts every January. McDonald's new ad campaign, with its plethora of ockerisms is doing just that, writes Greg Dickson. But spare a thought for "Stevo" who seems to have been written out of the ad to make way for a couple of white guys.

Two icons of January in Australia are the tennis season and Australia Day. Both are bittersweet.

Tennis is enjoyed by many and equally loathed by many. Even those who love it and spend hours watching it (like me) become embittered not because of the sport but because of the uninspired ads that broadcast sponsors force-feed to viewers to a nauseating degree.

Similarly Australia Day brings positives and negatives. Positives: a day off. Negatives: cringeworthy patriotism, a window in which cultural assimiliationist attitudes become socially acceptable, plus it’s really hard to see the day as nothing but a huge slap in the face to Indigenous Australians.

With their new ad campaign, McDonald’s has managed to combine tennis-facilitated media saturation with Australia Day cringeworthiness, resulting in fits of habitual eye-rolling I don’t recall doing so severely since I was a teenager. Now, I don’t dislike the McDonald’s ads just because they’re McDonald’s ads. I’m not averse to the occasional regular trip through the drive-thru. The ads annoy me because of their heavy use of cliched colloquial Australian English. It leads to the ads pandering irritatingly to an unrealistic, stereotyped Aussie identity. Watch for yourself (transcript provided below):


Here’s Gazza the ambo who’s pulled an all-nighter.
Nan and mum with the ankle biter.

Stevo from Paddo on a break from a reno,
havin’ a chinwag with the visiting relos.

Back from the Murray are Hoddy ‘n’ Binny,
with pav McFlurries ‘n’ towin’ a tinnie.

Porko ‘n’ Simmo in a ute that’s chockers.
Best behaviour fellas: these two are coppers.

Yep, there’s Jimbos ‘n’ Bennos ‘n’ Rachs ‘n’ Ackers.
But there’s only one place on earth where you can get Macca’s.

My objection to the ad isn’t because I’m embarrassed by the Australian dialect of English. I’m a proud native speaker of it and enjoy many of its features, including our habit of abbreviating words (known as hypocoristics) that other English dialects wouldn’t touch. The reason the ad irks me is because I have enough awareness of Australian culture to know that not all Aussies speak like that. And certainly many, many McDonald’s customers and staff don’t speak like that. Those who frequent McDonald’s know that staff and customers are distinctly culturally and linguistically diverse. It bothers me that McDonald’s is saturating my tennis viewing with an ocker ad that doesn’t reflect their clientele, staff or the nation.

In my research, I looked up the ad on YouTube. You’ll see on the video embedded above that among the various references to Gazza, Simmo, utes and tinnies, there’s Stevo from Paddo – an Asian Australian enjoying some McDonald’s with his “relos”. Stevo and his relos stand out as the only sprinkling of non-Caucasian-ness in the whole ad apart from the token black kid on the soccer team. Such tokenism is kind of cringeworthy but it’s pretty standard fare for such ads.

Stevo from Paddo features in the YouTube version of the new Macca's ad. But will we see him on telly?

But then came the clincher. After watching the YouTube clip, I looked back to the TV and saw the ad come on again. But Stevo from Paddo wasn’t there! Instead of showing us Stevo and what appears to be his parents, the ad that was shown last night and today (January 9-10, Canberra, Channel 7) featured two white guys named “Gordo ‘n’ Sonny”. The line about “Stevo” had also been replaced, with the blokey voiceover now bleating “Gordo n Sonny working off-site, making plans for Saturday night” as images of the two Caucasian looking guys were shown. God only knows what happened to Stevo from Paddo. I can’t help but think that he wasn’t deemed “Aussie” enough for the current campaign.

The whole “Macca’s Australia Day Brand” campaign pretty much grosses me out and it has nothing to do with the food. Not only do the images presented not reflect the reality of what people who visit and work at Australian McDonald’s stores look and sound like, and if the unsophisticated noisy use of cliched ockerisms isn’t enough, it now just seems…  well… racist that they’ve apparently edited out the only non-Caucasian looking characters. I’m happy for “Gordo ‘n’ Sonny” that they are planning a big Saturday night and all, but one has to wonder if they would include poor ol Stevo in their plans. Gordo ‘n’ Sonny might choose to just white him out, as McDonald’s appears to have done.

It’s just not cricket.

[Author’s note (14/1): Since publishing this post, a version of the Australia’s Day Macca’s ad featuring Stevo from Paddo has indeed been broadcast, although the sans-Stevo version continues to be shown as well.

Although Stevo has made it on to TV, my main arguments hold: the language used in the ad still irritatingly attempts to appeal to a stereotypical notion of Australian culture; the ad does not reflect the reality of McDonald’s Australia’s customers and staff, nor our national demography; and that McDonald’s went to the trouble to develop and broadcast a version of the ad without Stevo still poses valid questions about what motivations lie behind such a decision.]

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22 thoughts on “Is “Stevo” not Aussie enough for the new Macca’s ad?

  1. Aidan Wilson

    I saw the version with Stevo last night on channel 7 (Melbourne), didn’t watch enough to see if the sans-Stevo version made it to air as well.

    If they have two versions in circulation, as it appears they do, then it’s quite curious that Stevo is replaced by another pair of characters while (as far as I can tell) no other character has been replaced.

    I can understand if they had a shorter ad, as it is pretty normal advertising behaviour to lead a campaign with an onslaught of the full-length ad for one night, and then follow it up with a cut down version on subsequent days, only showing the full-length version once or twice per day at primetime. But it doesn’t appear that this is what’s happened here. They do appear to be sensitive to the inclusion of the asian family.

  2. pritu

    I wonder how many viewers have, like myself, given up watching tennis and cricket on the telly because the commentators seem more bent on endless selling of unrelated (mostly crap merchandise) and treating the sport as an sort of suitable “background” for their main activity.


    Forced, commodified patriotism: as Aussie as McDonald’s. Strewth!

  4. chas

    I think for sure theyve got the ads on rotation – doubteless Stevo gets a similar amount of airplay to ‘Gordo and Sonny’ I’ve seen both executions- although not in equal proportions.

    if they’re spending that much on an ad campaign they want to appeal to the broadest possible audience and ‘Gordo and Sonny’ audiences probably aren’t that fired up by seeing asians on maccas ads in exactly same way that ‘stevo’ type audiences would be offended by not seeing a multicultural representation. Advertising reflects society and is led by it rather than the other way round. Otherwise it wouldn’t work and advertisers would be wasting their millions. It’s probably just some basic demographic math that drives the proportions of each spot being shown.

    For this reason I think your rant is a litle bit misplaced here;they’re not trying to appeal to inner city latte sipping phd students. They’re trying to appeal to middle and lower socio groups (ie the ones that don’t boycott maccas for health and/or good taste reasons) and I reckon they’re hitting it pretty much spot on. if they’re pissing you ( ie inner city, educated elites) off this probably means it’s working even better than they could have hoped. That is as bill bernbach said something like ‘if you stand for anything someone will always stand against you, but if you stand for nothing, no one will stand with you’.

    This isn’t the first campaign in this vein that they’ve executed over the past couple of years since they Aussie-fied their name and this must mean that they have evidence of it’s resonance – you don’t spend multi-millions without some research evidence.

    So I think what’s really pissing you off about the campaign is the fact that probably the majority of Aussies actually quite like it. That is, as evidenced by the continued existence of the campaign, that the majority of Australia pro ably don’t share your opinions about Maccas use of language, or about their use of imagery.

  5. Bird Kenneth

    What’s a ‘relo’? It was always ‘relie’ where I grew up or has WA finally succeeded in seceding and now is un-Australian?

    Oh well at least Sam and his Lambnesia still appreciates us? Now, that is a fun campaign

  6. wamut

    Interesting to hear Stevie.

    I just saw the ad on the tennis again and definitely no Stevo, just Gordo n Sonny.

  7. Kain Tietzal

    Really? When did crikey start writing articles like the SMH?

    Yeah, it’s not that ethnically diverse but I doubt channel 7 asked for Stevo to be pulled. These ads often come with multiple variations on content. And why are we all surprised – it’s McDonalds!

    Talk about a storm in a teacup.

  8. Stevie Easton

    I just saw the ad on TV, during the cricket, and Stevo from Paddo was definitely there, with his relos.

  9. gapot

    At least PAUL HOGAN is not doing the voice over…thank you ronnie

  10. Tristan

    For more LOLs – turn on the automatic English captioning…
    “his guest of the embattled reasonable little maya pen and mom with the ankle”
    “biter resign from ten elena brown from arena image in the land with the”
    “visiting reliance on bag from the marriott body in the mean with bette”
    “midler recent palestinian hope balancing winning”
    “just talk”
    “misguided fellas”
    “they still have the list”
    “dusty in less than ten times and writers and actors”
    “but there’s only one finds on the win”

  11. Colin Kennedy

    I could not agree more with the opinions herein.

    Add to the sickening sentiments that nauseating, nasal intonation reminiscent of those “C’mon Aussie, c’mon” ads and it’s almost a prefect storm of bogan speak

  12. AsGrayAsGray

    SM @#7 – They’re not that bad now, you know. They have these healthy choicey things with salads and all that, with less calories and fat than their old-style menu.
    Oh wait, the old-style menu is still the dominant one, and they haven’t really changed at all, but thanks to an in-store coffee shop and some preserved-in-plastic-with-antibiotics salads they seem to have fooled a lot of folks.
    And why hasn’t anyone called these b-stards on killing that Aussie guy who was their boss, who died of colon cancer after eating their sh-t food for decades?? Their PR dudes must be little miracle-workers to get that one brushed under the frying cabinet…
    Macca’s – on my boycott list for many years (except for that one time when it was really hot and I really wanted a soft-serve ice-cream, and I was horrified that the 30c cones had gone up by double), and right there on my boycott list to stay.
    You can’t fool me Ronald. You stupid clown. You are not Australian, and you should be forced to stop flying the flag at all your outlets, and stop trying to co-opt our culture, or lack of…

  13. Holden Back

    But please don’t forget there are actually plenty of Chinese and Vietnamese Australians whose accents are Broad Australian.

  14. Max Roberts

    Yep, always been a big fan of the old hypocorries.

  15. David Plant

    And meanwhile a journo exclaims with a cry
    That Stevo’s gone AWOL, and we all wonder why
    The coppers say “Crikey, that’s serious mate!”
    “Bugger Porko and Simmo, we must know his fate.”

    So they blaze out with sirens, and blue and red lights
    While Gordo and Sonny, are planning their nights
    Then Hoddy, (not Hotty) leans over to Gaz
    And says, “what’s the commotion, never seen such such a razz?”

    Gaz just leans back, and with an ironic smile
    says, “These b*stards need to do my job for while.”

  16. Stephen Macintosh

    Excellent article. The gobsmacking gall of maccas, a company that is contributing, mightily, to a global obesity pandemic, is breathtaking. I hope that in years to come we look on these adds in the same way that we now veiw those 1970s cigarette commercials.

  17. Alan Walker

    The replacement wording “Gordo ‘n’ Sonny working off-site” seems to imply that they are on work time, and are meant to be using the laptop to do their job. So the hard-working Stevo has been ousted by a couple of Anglos rorting the system to use the boss’s time and equipment for private pleasures!

  18. wamut

    Yes, I’m considering that a possibility too Matt. So I hedged my story by saying only that it “seems” that Stevo’s been edited out. (And that’s certainly true).

    I also wondered if because I’m in Canberra, I’m being fed an regionalised, “whiter” version of the ad, but a mate in Brisbane didn’t recall seeing Stevo on telly there either.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Stevo makes an appearance. Or will Macca’s just delete him off YouTube too.

  19. kieran krud

    I think Wamut has failed to touch on an important aspect, that this ad is voiced by Ray Meagher, aka. ‘flamin’ Alf Stewart.

    Furthermore, what exactly is Australian about buying a multi-thousand kilojoule meal from an american fast food chain?

    Now, I only eat micky d’s once a year (a quarter libber on good friday) but this ad is making me rethink even that.

  20. Matt Steadman

    Could there possibly just be multiple versions of the ad? Far-be-it for me to defend McDonald’s, but given the saturated ad schedule they are likely to have for this campaign it may make sense to have different versions on rotation, with different “characters”…

  21. Chris Graham

    Good yarn Crikey. And all the motivation I need to boycott McDonalds for another decade. Cheers 🙂 (or should be that goodonya mate!)

  22. dsb

    The Macca add is bad enough and too oft repeated. Worse still are the repeated public health ads about smoking and skin cancer. I wonder about the impact on viewers seeing the same well intended but maudilin view between every game let alone set!Is there evidence that this consistent intrusion has a positive impact? I consistently mute the ads and concentrate on some great tennis and the drama of Bernie suddenly showing signs of maturity.Will he be man enough to make up with Pat?

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