My son’s in town, having a mooch. We do stuff in the daytime but in the nighttime we watch telly.
The Ridge gets its free-to-air from Sydney, Melbourne, Mount Isa and Alice Springs. The result is a perfect storm of bad regional adverts, the kind made by small, under-resourced “production companies” fronted by ex-teachers who taught themselves to use Windows Media Player by watching YouTube.
In country Australia you can feasibly pay for the production and broadcasting of any advert for any thing. Absolutely anything. Businesses that couldn’t afford a box ad in a suburban Sydney paper can indulge themselves, and us, with a whole 30-seconds to describe their extensive range of facilities. “Thanks, Buffs!” (Killer tagline.)
Because they’re made locally there’s no need to tell anyone where the business is actually located. I mean, everyone knows where McRae’s Newsagency is: it’s in Tourange Mall. And EVERYONE knows WTF Tourange Mall is.
There are great ads coming out of Mount Isa for the Living With Lead Alliance: “Did you know that children who have breakfast absorb lead at a lower rate than those who skip this important meal?” “Don’t sweep your floors: use a mop to keep particles of lead-borne dust to a minimum!” “Make sure your children wash their hands after coming into contact with Mount Isa!”
The language and social values are, as a rule, old school. Slogans are simple and straightforward: “CentWest Engineering – big on steel” and “We’ve got lots and lots of bits and bobs at BOSS”. Jingles have the jolly warmth of the olden days:
You’re going to need us if you’re a tradie
We’ve got everything big or small
We can even help the ladies!
My son’s favourite is a deliberately gauche ad for Fox Furniture in Alice Springs. It is so bad that it’s good, but then you feel so manipulated by its contrived badness that you get cranky with it and intend to not like it, but then it sinks a bit further into a rancid taste sinkhole and you’re back on board, cringing and giggling and peeping at it through your crossed fingers. It’s like when someone has you pinned down and won’t stop tickling and you’re at the point where it’s starting to hurt and you might even wee a bit. And then, when you think it’s all over, it gets worse. Noooo!
The corner shop ads are deliciously crap. Why move that car out of the way? Why pull the rollers all the way up? Why bother having a friendly owner in the doorway? Fuck it. Just get someone with an iPhone to grab a snap and bang on a voice-over.
I don’t know if it’s seasonal or not but every third advert is for the sale of cattle. There’s a cracker that’s been made by a farmer using his laptop’s in-built mike and some footage taken from a moving ute.
Then there’s Thingadonta’s Den. This is a shop (at least I think it’s a shop) that offers a confusingly large and incompatible range of goods and services, from truck tyres and bed linen to a plant nursery and cafe. I may be wrong. But I do know that it’s open seven days a week, and is located in West Street. West Street is located in a medium-sized town or city in a triangle of land between (possibly) Bendigo, Tennant Creek and Camooweal. Or not.
My personal favourite is from the Discover Boulia campaign. This one cunningly saves on the vast fees commanded by the actors of the south-west Cloncurry region by using marionettes. It’s pretty awesome. I haven’t been to Boulia yet, and until seeing the advert I’d never considered going there. But now I want to discover it for myself. I might stop at Thingadonta’s on the way for a tyre change, some fitted sheets, a cactus and a skinny latte.
It’s nighttime now. Darkness has descended upon Lightning Ridge. My lad has fired up the telly. We’re about to settle in with a couple beers, we’ll mute Zumbo’s Just Desserts and Gold Coast Cops, and we’ll treat ourselves to some real outback telly. The adverts. Bring ’em on.