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Selling the Unsellable: Revisting Our Best Campaigns for Gruen

For 16 years, the Australian panel show Gruen has given viewers the inside scoop on the advertising, marketing, and PR industry. For seven years running, the ThinkPlaceX team (formerly as creativeXpeople) has been invited to ‘The Pitch’ – a favourite segment on the show that tasks competing creative thinkers to sell the unsellable.
Related Topics:
Rethinking work
22 July 2024
ThinkPlaceX part of Synergy Group
7 minutes

For 16 years, the Australian panel show Gruen has given viewers the inside scoop on the advertising, marketing, and PR industry. For seven years running, the ThinkPlaceX team (formerly as creativeXpeople) has been invited to ‘The Pitch’ – a favourite segment on the show that tasks competing creative thinkers to sell the unsellable. 


During The Pitch, teams create impactful commercials on challenging topics that push the boundaries of the status quo. Though the challenge varies each year, ThinkPlaceX's approach remains consistent: tackling the core issue by exploring the root of the problem, zooming in and out, and connecting strategy, human experience, and deep insight to ask, "What if we really had to solve this problem?" 


Once the science is set, the art takes shape through narrative, rhythm, story, message, and timing. The perfect balance of the two is the magic of persuasive storytelling that shapes behaviours and responses at every level of a system, from the individual through to society and culture itself.  


The 2024 Gruen season has had us reflecting on our impossible briefs over the past seven years. Here, we’re revisiting these moments, and diving into the strategy and creativity that made them.  


How do we shape a compelling story? 

To craft a message that means something, we first delve deep into human behaviour, one of our core strengths. The psychological, illogical, and neurochemically driven chaos that is humanity.  To convince anyone of anything, we need to distinctly align what we’re doing, and the outcome we want, to a human need and desire in a way that is meaningful, relevant, and useful.  


With clarity and a distilled focus, we begin to establish the common ground that drives decision-making, and the hook to engage, entertain, and convey a core message that sticks at scale. This becomes our conceptual framework for infinite exploration, and the Blank Page methodology that guides are ability to take risks, explore and create lasting positive experiences in the world.  


So let’s go back in time to see how to sell the unsellable: 


2024: Create a new bodily insecurity and the product to solve it  

As brutal as it is, insecurities are the perfect market for advertisers. The industry either creates an insecurity to sell a new product (such as making women fear body hair to sell razors) or targets existing insecurities.  

Rather than falling into the same traditional tropes, we decided to call out the central premise of insecurity altogether.  


At its crux, insecurity is a form of social comparison and a feeling of inadequacy born from perceived ideals and norms. We wanted to highlight how absurd it is for companies, brands, products, or people themselves to create new ways for us to be insecure.  


Taking a stab at comparison itself, we cut to the heart of the problem that, at the end of the day, it’s all a pissing contest; and there’s already too much of that in life as it is.  




2023: Convince Australians to embrace the new holiday "Favourite Child Day”  

Parents often find themselves winning and losing the role of ‘favourite’, depending on the whims of their children. Their affection wavers and flip-flops, regardless of the commitment and effort from their parents or other family members. Being chosen as the 'favourite' of the day often feels like a matter of luck. 

In 2023, we poked fun at this universal experience when we were asked to convince Australians that there should be a ‘Favourite Child Day', and decided to gamify the whole experience of favouritism itself.  


Why not have an annual day where kids had to compete for their parents’ affection instead, earning the title of ‘favourite child’... or not. Something all parents could get behind.  



Gruen Nation 2022: Unite all Australians regardless of the Election result 

What does it take to unite a diverse group of people? What are the traits we all share?  


Invited on to a 2-episode special ahead of the 2022 elections, we were asked to appear on the final episode and tackle this gargantuan brief.  


We spent a lot of time diving into the issues that plague people from every part of the country, the hopes and dreams, the opposing views, and the disagreements. Using diametrically opposed segments of the population, we worked to cut to the core of fundamental desires they each share.  


Everyone, no matter how different they are from one another, just want to be heard. With the divisiveness of politics, echo chambers, and persistent rhetoric, we focused on the one, simple step to take. Because it’s hard to hear anyone if we’re all shouting.   

For Gruen Nation, this was personal for us. We didn’t want to create something just for the sake of a win or a laugh, but to challenge ourselves and put out a message as a call to arms to truly unite Australians. We were fortunate to have been able to rally wonderful Australians to the cause, to unite with us in the moving telling of this story – in what was a very rapid 30 second time limit.  



Gruen Nation: The Pitch - Unite all Australians, regardless of the Election Result from creativeXpeople at Synergy Group on Vimeo.

2021: Convince Australians that all children should be sent to boarding school   

As adults, we carry around a massive mental load. For those with children, the volume is often tenfold. But largely, Australians don’t get a break from their kids. Culturally, we’re a nation of day-schoolers, and boarding school isn’t on most families’ horizons.  

To convince parents to send their kids to boarding school en masse, we needed a combined message so both children and parents truly believe it’s the best thing to do. And while most parents will have a cheeky dig at their kids, they don’t really want to get rid of them. To truly convince Australians, we would need a very compelling argument. And in 2021, there was no better experience everyone was feeling than the level of overwhelm and mental load we carry to a daily basis. Backed by the insight that this load turns us all into people we don’t want to be because we can’t be our best selves when we’re every self.   




2020: Convince Australians to never go back to the office   

Covid forced many people to work from home, and this global behavourial shift that disrupted societies almost overnight reignited the debates about where people work best; is it the office, working from home, or a hybrid scenario? When we thought about how you might convince Australians in a meaningful way, we looked to the greatest influence on workplace culture – the employers. It’s largely up to them to define where their employees work through the policies, processes, and modelling of behaviours. And the decisions of the quality of office spaces are largely made by the features in brochures, real estate ads and lists from agents.  


Tapping into these techniques, we knew it was important to make a clear connection between highly sought after features, and what we already have anywhere in the country. Through emotional and experience design, we blended the right connection of imagery, music, voice, and narrative to make the most obvious point there is – why would you work anywhere else?  


And for our own taste of an end credits scene, we through in a call back to the iconic Australian Tourism slogan of ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’. 



2019: Convince Australians that they should embrace Halloween   

Australians largely perceive Halloween as a very American holiday, and garners mixed feelings at the best of times in Aussie culture. So, to create a narrative that convinced Australians to embrace this tradition, we needed to own it. Breaking the celebration of Halloween down to its parts, it was clear that with our love for a laugh, of firing up the BBQ, a bevvy, and a love-hate relationship with our scary critters, it was a celebration made for a fair dinkum Aussie twist. Not Halloween, but ‘Hallos: It’s a bloody ripper’. 


While not the winner this episode, this story and bringing it to life stands out as one of our favourites. A sentiment shared by business, media and broadcast mogul Russel Howcroft when he added that “The production values were absolutely fantastic. Fantastic storytelling, single camera shot, lots of great casting, beautifully timed.”  



2018: Convince Australians that cheating is part of our DNA   

This challenge had us deep-diving into what cheating really is. Off the back of the infamous ball tampering scandal of "sandpapergate”, there was a lot to be said about what cheating is in the case of Australians. Besides the more negative types of cheating, like fraud, affairs, or in sports, we wanted to unpack what it means to be a cheater at all and what the elements that underpin its essence. When you peel away the layers of the negative impact, we broke down that cheating, at its core, is having an unfair advantage. While calling someone a cheat might make us feel better about ourselves, or our position when we lag behind, it’s generally only aimed at those in front of you.  

But through the hall of unfair advantage, we could take a turn through how we have, and will always be innovators, because it’s in our blood.  



We have been so proud and grateful to have been invited year after year to join the CJZ Producers, the ABC and the Gruen team on this historic Aussie favourite. And want to give a massive thank you to the Gruen team who have brought this program to life for 16 years and having us along for the ride. It is an honour to have been and continue to be the only organization in the nation’s capital to have been invited, and one of the few nationally to have become regulars year after year.  

It's a testament to the talent, skill, expertise, passion, and brilliance of the team behind each production, those we have engaged with, talked to, and co-designed with, those who’ve lent their time and talents on camera, and the partners we’ve worked with behind the camera.  

While a short 30 to 45 second piece of television advertising, The Pitch represents the ability of story, creativity, and imagination that is bound by strategy, and a unwavering passion for doing good in the world, to make an impact, to move people, to engage, transform and leave a lasting positive effect.  

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