The Chaser’s War On Advertising

The Chaser are an Australian group of six who focus on political satire. Starting with a mock newspaper at University, this comedic team have become well known for The Chaser’s War On Everything which first aired in 2006 on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

I’ve been a big fan for a long time, well before they became mainstream. However their popularity has increased exponentially over the past few months with two controversial stunts that have sent their ratings skyrocketing.

The first was a stunt breaching the security of the APEC Summit…


And the second, which aired only last week, was The Eulogy Song…

The first stunt reached international media and that episode reached 2.3 million viewers, which is phenomenal for Australian TV.
It was controversial with many saying it was over the top while others, like myself, loved it. And the second gained a lot of interest in the media, calling it poor taste and disrespectful, even to the point where the Australian Prime Minister came out and said it was disgusting. The general view was that you can’t make fun on deceased people, which is exactly what the song plays on. Again, I loved it.Personally I feel the Chaser guys are legends, as would the majority of the Generation Y. But how does this all tie into marketing I hear you ask? Well, lets take a look at their popularity and how it was reached.

The War airs on the ABC, which is a government funded channel with no advertising. Not only does this means their production is done on a budget far less than on the commercial networks, but it also means they cannot advertise. The ABC has a strict policy on this, meaning no commercials for the view but in fact its so strict that logos on the show are actually covered up as not to suggest any kind of sponsorship or endorsement. So how is it that these guys can win the ratings over commercial networks and gain such popularity?

I believe its more than the fact this show is hilariously humorous and obviously controversial, with a few main reasons that stand out.

Podcasting being the first. It seems to be something that the ABC has adopted and its definitely something that’s working in their favour. The War ranks as the most downloaded podcast for most of last year, only to be topped these days by ABC’s other high rating series Summer Heights High. Both of these shows have similar elements and the podcasting of these freely has significantly increased their audience, particularly to the Generation Y.

YouTube being the second. Many of their stunts have gone viral but rather than the ABC forcing this clips removed, they’ve endorsed it. Again this was done with Summer Heights High and again both of these are gaining the benefit from a much larger audience.

And their online support being the third and final factor giving this show such popularity. If you’ve seen the show you’ll know they run a regular segment called “The Ad Road Test” which involves testing Australian adverts to see how true they are. All of the adverts used are suggested by average consumers on their guestbook at their official website. They also have a strong forum community. The War are involved and as Joseph Jaffe would say, they are “joining the conversation”.

The combination of these three has successfully promoted their show. With no advertising budget and no access to commercial or standard channels of promotion, these guys are using new means. Its costing them less and is arguably a more successful approach.

And now, the whole point of this blog, was to discuss what could be called The War’s first serious marketing campaign. I say “serious” because they have placed billboards in Iceland and Estonia in the past (see below), but this is their first official campaign. Its called Sledge and basically it involves people to go out and filming their on satire piece based on the upcoming 2007 Election. It must then be uploaded on YouTube and the best clip has the winner spend a week working with the Chaser guys in Sydney with flights and accommodation paid for.

I must say I really do love this idea. At first I was hesitant, thinking it wouldn’t attract much attention. I haven’t really heard much about it, just through Triple J (An Australian radio station, closely affiliated with the ABC) and a small newspaper article, which is my main concern. The deadline is the eve of the 2007 Eelction, the 23rd of November, and if word doesn’t spread quick enough it could miss out on the involvement it deserves.

However I think the idea itself is great. Not only is it something new and creative but it really goes to the heart of what The War is all about. Its also integrating YouTube as a social network and pushing the concept for consumer generated content. I think its really a great example of a “prosumer” related contest with an interesting prize. I’m already working on filming a clip of my own but I think it will be great to see what people can come up with.

The War and the ABC are leading the way in new marketing.

  • Julian Cole
    Posted at October 25, 2007 8:04pm, 25 October Reply

    What a killer first point. I think you summed it up perfectly. The ABC is clearly leading the way in new media. I think it is the whole mantra of they have nothing to loose. no advertisers nothing. Keep up the good posts.

    Start up a google analytics account to track the progress.

    Damn I wish I had started my blog when I was 18!

  • Marty
    Posted at October 25, 2007 10:00pm, 25 October Reply

    That’s a great point. They don’t have to worry like the commercial networks about losing revenue, but I think its definitely the way forward.

    I noticed that Channel 10 placed a ten second spot before their Thank God You’re Here vodcast and the Hamish and Andy podcast has recently had some advertising placed throughout it. I think we’ll start seeing a lot more of that.

    Cheers for the heads up with the Google Analytics.

  • Peter Wagstaff
    Posted at October 29, 2007 11:54pm, 29 October Reply

    Is it a mistake to place advertising in vod/podcasts? I feel that traditional “30-second” style advertising will simply alienate today’s audience… As Joseph Jaffe and others are telling us, any promotional message must (a) be entertaining in itself, and (b) blend into the main message. Who’d be bothered paying any attention otherwise?

    Loving the new blog, Marty… keep it up!

  • Marty
    Posted at October 30, 2007 1:38pm, 30 October Reply

    An upcoming post of mine will be about monetizing blogs and podcasts, which covers some of these kind of issues.

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