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Welcome to The Gruen Transfer, where we pull ads over to the side of the road to see what they've been drinking.
The Gruen Transfer is an Australian television program focusing on advertising, which debuted on The ABC on May 28, 2008. The program is hosted by comedian Wil Anderson with a panel of advertising industry experts.
The title refers to the Gruen Transfer, the response to designed disorientation cues in retail environments to encourage impulse purchasing named after Austrian architect Victor Gruen, who designed the first shopping mall (and who strongly opposed using the transfer technique).
During the 2010 Australian election campaign, the show temporarily became Gruen Nation, a version analyzing political spin, increasing the show's run for the year by four episodes.
In September 2011, the show re-branded itself as Gruen Planet, which broadens the show's scope to include all forms of spin and PR, rather than simply advertising.
Current segments include:
- How Do You Sell?: This segment every week looks at advertising tactics used by advertisers. Topics covered include beer, underwear, chocolate and banks.
- Endorse Me: Wil Anderson gives the panel the challenge of finding a sponsor for people who are famous for all the wrong reasons. Examples include Carl Williams and David Hicks.
- The Pitch: Two advertising companies are given a brief to create an advertisement for an "unsellable" product. Previous examples have included whale meat, tourism in Baghdad, the beleaguered Australian Democrats political party, and a proposed invasion of New Zealand (which provoked a response from the New Zealand government and several NZ YouTube viewers, although the final episode of Series One provided some balance in the form of a promotion for tourists not to visit Australia). As of the 2011 season, they are sourcing their weekly Pitch from fan suggestions on Twitter and Facebook.
- Ad of the Week (from season three, known instead as Ad Crunch): Wil and the panel look at an ad and they discuss it and how effective it is.
- What is this Ad for?: Wil shows the beginning of an ad but doesn't identify it and asks the panel to guess what it is for.
- What's Wrong With This Ad?: A semi-regular segment where Wil shows an ad (usually brought to the attention by viewers) and asks the panel the things they believe to be wrong about that ad. A previous example includes the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Heaven campaign (which emphasises low fat in its product), where a viewer commented that in the ad, even after dying and going to heaven, you still have to worry about your weight.
- Space Invaders: A semi-regular segment in which a real-life example of a new or unusual space for advertising is discussed. (Previous examples have included sheep jackets, children's books and on slums.) The panel are then challenged to figure out a worthwhile client for advertisements in that space.
- Time Tunnel: The panel goes back to look at an ad from several years ago, and compare the strategies used to modern advertising.
- God, I Hate That Ad!: A web exclusive segment where Wil will bring up a particular ad that he (or viewers) dislike and has the panel discuss it, whether it is bad or not, or why it is bad.
- What Does it Mean?: A web exclusive segment where Wil and the panel come to a consensus of what message an ad is trying to get across when it is not obvious.
- What would Putin Do?: Only on Gruen Planet, it discusses bizarre PR stunts pulled by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This show provides examples of:
- Almost all Advertising Tropes
- Bragging Rights Reward: The Gruen Trophy received by winning The Pitch.
- "I've done a dwarf!" -- Dee Madigan
- Butt Monkey: Russel Howcroft -- being a wealthy, rather conservative-leaning lifelong ad-man -- tends to find himself at the butt of many of the jokes that Wil and the others make.
- Deadpan Snarker: The panellists can certainly be this at times, especially during segments like Endorse Me. Wil, for his his part, is this 90% of the time.
- Deconstruction of advertising.
- Double Entendre: The panel make quite a few of these, probably more often than intended. They, and the audience, usually end up cracking up as a result.
- The discussion on how to pour a glass of beer and produce a stable foamy top (the head) that can be used for commercial photography inevitably turns very dirty indeed.
Dan: Look, in any moneyshot involving head, the key is to pull back at the right moment.
- Mr. Fanservice: Todd Sampson
- Fun T-Shirt: Panel regular Todd Sampson usually wears these.
- Freudian Trio
- Todd: Advertising must appeal to feelings (Id)
- Russel: You must present cold facts to convince. (Superego)
- Wil: Comedic balancing of the two with snarky remarks. (Ego)
- Godwin's Law: The first episode of the 2010 series included a discussion of the use of Adolf Hitler in advertising.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place. "The Pitch" one week was to come up with an ad to promote tourism to the Canadian town of Asbestos.
- Les Yay: In discussing a Cathay Pacific advertisement, Wil was quick to notice that there seemed to be more than a bit of UST between a stewardess and a female flier.
- Literal Metaphor: In one episode, "The Pitch" was to sell ice to Eskimos.
- Missing Episode: The legal department of the ABC refused to allow an ad produced for The Pitch to be aired. It is available at www.antiprejudicead.net.
- Mr. Fanservice: Todd and his tight shirts.
- Mood Whiplash: The show usually takes a light-hearted look at advertising, but every so often they discuss an advert discussing a very serious topic which, naturally, tends to put a stop to the humour. One notable example involved a very confronting PSA featuring Emma Thompson about the effects of human trafficking and the sex slavery trade, during which you could have heard a pin drop in the studio.
- Nine Out of Ten Doctors Agree: Wil registered a company named Nine Out of Ten Experts, and offered to agree with any claim for a fee.
- Panel Show
- Polish the Turd: Taken rather literally by the 2010 season, given the prize for the Worst Ad Of All Time is the Gruen Polished Turd. Taken to a meta-level by the increasingly flamboyant ways the trophy was presented before the audience.
- Politics Tropes: Gruen Nation
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Often raised when the disconnect between what's in the advert and the real thing is raised. In particular, the classic 'the burger looks different in the advert than in the packet' complaint was addressed when one of the panelists pointed out that with all of the artificial, toxic and unpleasant things that are done in preproduction to get the burger in the advert looking 'perfect', it would be a much bigger concern if you were to get one of those kinds of burgers served to you. In another example, Russel countered the argument that paying for bottled water was a rip-off when you could get it for free from your tap by pointing out that technically tap water isn't free; you have to pay local water rates to have access to it.
- Running Gag: Gruen Nation and the 1949 ad for E.V.B. Sampson, Independent Country Party Candidate for Wollondilly.
- For the 2011 season, riffing on Coles' "DOWN DOWN PRICES ARE DOWN" advertisement series and its giant red hand paraphernalia quickly turned into one as well.
- Serious Business: Advertising, naturally. In particular, Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft -- who are from different agencies and also have different approaches and philosophies towards advertising and its ethical implications -- can get into some pretty heated debates at times. This has been lampshaded:
Wil: What I loved about that was you both said the same thing but still managed to disagree.
- Sexy Stewardess: Cropped up a few times in the third season (and discussed in-depth in the final episode) with examples of this trope in advertising, in particular focussing on the efforts of two low-budget Russian airlines to tap into this trope (an ad with sexy stewardesses washing a plane in bikinis in one example, and a nudie stewardess calendar released by another).
- Take That: Quite a few, actually. Often during Endorse Me or Space Invaders.
- Wil ended a Space Invaders segment on "bumvertising" with this gem:
"Big Brother: Sometimes it's better to be homeless."
- On ads tied to the legs of flies in a bookstore:
- That Came Out Wrong: An unintentional Crowning Moment of Funny occurred during a discussion of an ad for women's razors. A female panellist commented that the majority of young males had never seen female pubic hair. Russel then remarked "Except for their mother's". As the rest of the panel collapsed in a mix of shock, disbelief and hilarity, Russel hurriedly tried to explain that he had meant when they were born, but the explanation was lost under the hysterical laughter. Just to add the icing to the cake? Russel's mother was in the audience.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: A metaphorical version - Gruen Nation noted that the Coalition was unwilling to make ads attacking Julia Gillard herself (as opposed to the Labor Party) until near the end of the 2010 election campaign, where things got increasingly off the handle.