I watched an excellent documentary last night called How Australia Got Its Mojo, which is about the iconic Australian advertising agency of the seventies and eighties called Mojo.
For anyone who grew up in this era, a program like this is bound to be nostalgic. So much of what Mojo did has become a part of our culture and, for people around my age, a part of the national consciousness. There are not many advertising agencies that could claim so much.
Their work was quality, but the true gift they possessed was in aligning to, and articulating, what was a burgeoning national identity. A lot happened pretty quickly in those decades, and Mojo rode the wave.
They had a uniquely Australian voice, and that was a big part of it. The voice was literal as well as metaphorical. The ‘Jo’ of the business literally gave voice to the many great jingles they produced. It was a confident and laid-back Aussie accented voice that appealed to our self-image, but then so to were the stories it told of us, and the images that reflected our life.
All this was certainly true of me, growing up through this. I was burgeoning too and wanted to believe in an Australia of sorts, and the voice, both masculine and easy going was probably how I wanted to be myself. And the images, of surf and sport, of families in the sunshine and in the streets, were what I knew as well.
Mojo created the original Winfield ads with Paul Hogan, which are classics: ‘let ‘er rip, Boris.’
They took on Meadow Lea as a client and were responsible for telling us ‘you, oughta be congratulated’.
They conceived of the hugely successful campaign for Tooheys – ‘I feel like a Tooheys, I feel like a Tooheys, I feel like a Tooheys, or two…’
At the height of World Series Cricket, they were called upon to ignite interest in a failing contest and wrote the iconic ‘C’mon Aussie, c’mon’ – which promptly went to the top of the charts.
They wrote the jingles and advertising for Australian Woman’s Weekly, and created the hugely successful ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ campaign for Qantas. And, working with Paul Hogan again, they created the Australian Tourism ads that were so successful in the US – ‘throw a shrimp on the barbie.’
I swear I had tears in my eyes in remembrance. These were artful ads that told a story and defined a generation. Looking back, it seems such a shiny, hopeful time. And I remembered not just the tunes that were so catchy, I remembered what it was like to live then.
It was a simpler time. We were more of a community. We were engaged as a nation of people, and full of hope. We pulled together, and these ads articulated that.
Across the world these days such reflections are not unusual. It’s so fractious and messy and confusing that it’s comforting to look back at times that through memory seem easier, or at least, less confusing.
That’s a general trend, but in Oz we had our own unique brand of. It’s a time that remains vivid to me though now it’s nearly 30 years done. It evokes a powerful nostalgia – if not sentiment – as if you haven’t guessed.
That’s what I felt last night, the joy of remembrance tinged with melancholy knowing how much has been lost since then. Some of that is purely personal. Mum was around then and my grandparents and I was a kid becoming a man and riding a bike and hanging out with friends and my first kiss or two, and so on, and I had a full on lust for life.
The Mojo ads tell the story of my life in a way, because they reflected middle Australia, the voice and the imagery so spot on and familiar that we recognised ourselves. That’s why it resonates still, and why it was so mightily effective back in the day.