If you spend any time at all watching the ABC’s free-to-air channel, chances are you’ve seen more than one ad for the upcoming How Australia Got Its Mojo with Russel Howcroft. Bonus points if you’ve been able to avoid kicking in your television screen.
It’s not for us to wonder aloud in a shouty voice why the fuck the ABC is running a one hour salute to the majesty of 70s-era Australian advertising, which we can only assume was an industry even more jam-packed with horrible, horrible people than it is today. But while we were clawing at our faces at the nightmare of a national broadcaster devoting its increasingly limited resources to what will almost certainly be little more than an excuse to show a bunch of old commercials so the ABC’s devoted audience of 70 year olds can go “why don’t they put women in bikinis on the telly any more? It’s political correctness gone mad”, we did think of something this documentary could do to entertain us: talk about Paul Hogan.
Something that often gets overlooked these days when Crocodile Dundee gets mentioned – okay, pretty much everything gets overlooked because Crocodile Dundee isn’t on the tip of anyone tongue in 2019 – is the way that Paul Hogan’s international success wasn’t a matter of the world embracing an Aussie larrikin, but the result of a carefully put together plan to create an internationally famous character – paid for by advertisers around the world.
Hogan was a successful television comedian in Australia in the 70s, but his show didn’t exactly travel the globe. What did were his commercials: he advertised Fosters in the UK, then was the face of an extremely successful tourism campaign in the US. So when he made Crocodile Dundee, international audiences already knew who he was and liked what they saw; so long as the movie delivered the same tried and tested brand of laconic Aussie comedy – and it did – there was a very strong chance it’d pull a crowd.
Fun fact: the tourism ads that made Hogan a star in the US actually were made by Mojo. So chances are they’ll even get a mention in this documentary. But here’s our prediction: if and when they do get mentioned, it’ll be to suggest the ads were what made Hoges a global star, not that Hoges – who, let’s not forget, had already used commercials both in Australia and the UK to extend what we call today “his brand” – was a canny individual who used and exploited the commercials as part of his own career plan.
Because these days the ABC’s business isn’t to actually examine or educate, but celebrate. And when the thing you’re celebrating is the advertising industry, you’ve clearly lost the fucking plot.