A long, long time ago, in a Straya far, far away, Australia briefly exported cigarettes to Japan.
It wasn’t that long ago, actually.
But for several months in 1994, Winfield cigarettes, one of Australia’s most famous brands (it marketed itself as “Australia’s No. 1 brand” in Japan, but it was actually only the second-biggest seller Down Under, behind Peter Jackson), was an unlikely competitor of mostly British and American Big Tobacco companies to tap into what was still then a thriving Japanese smokers’ market largely unregulated at the time. Winfield was on a downturn at the time in its home country.
Cigarette advertising had been banned from TV and print media decades earlier, but by the mid-1990s in Australia had also been outlawed from outdoor displays and sporting events that tobacco company sponsorship had largely kept afloat.
Japanese Winnie Reds
Like many Western companies faced with growing anti-smoking sentiment at the time, the owners of the Winfield brand decided to flog their fags off to Asians. It didn’t work too well in Japan.
Japanese Winnie Reds and Winnie Blues could be found in the country’s ciggie vending machines (then ubiquitous, now becoming rarer) over what was a record-breaking hot summer and autumn, but were mostly gone by the Christmas of that year.
Winfield owed its chance overseas to many factors, at least one of which was the role played by Paul Hogan, a sometime comedian better-known to international audiences as the star of the Crocodile Dundee film series.
Hoges had been the face of Winfield when it first came out in the 1970s and he was beginning his ascent toward becoming one of Australia’s best-known stars. He became synonymous with the brand even as its presence was being limited, but his famous catch copy of “…anyhow* have a Winfield,” entered the lexicon of ordinary Aussies.
Japanese Winnie Blues
…anyhow*, Australia outlawed packaging displays on cigarettes from 2012. Although punters could still ask for their different types of Winnies, which had been branded according to colors such as Red and Blue, the packaging was no longer actually red, blue or any other color.
Even Hoges, whose rise to fame was at least partly inspired by a sharp set of movie theater and print ads he’d made for Winfield in the 1970s, came out a few years ago to say that he deeply regretted the commercials for having inspired so many people to pick up a durry. Hoges and Stropp Winfield Ad from 1971
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, probably the most-loved Australian children’s TV program in history, has turned 50 years old.
The first episodes screened in Australia in February 1968 and the show remains popular to this day, though only three series comprising 91 episodes were made.
The show premiered outside of Australia. Its run in Japan had effectively ended before Skippy showed in Australia, mainly because the series was made in color, which did not arrive in Australia until 1975. Skippy told the story of a grey kangaroo and her best friend, a young boy named Sonny Hammond, played by Garry Pankhurst in his only role of significance in an acting career that had finished by his teens. Pankhurst grew up to work in the hospitality business and eventually ended up exporting kangaroo meat for consumption in Asian countries.
Sonny’s father, Matt, was the head ranger at the (fictional) Waratah National Park, as depicted by Ed Devereaux. Other cast regulars included Sonny’s brother, Mark, portrayed by Ken James, the park pilot, Jerry King, played by Tony Bonner, and park receptionist, Clancy, performed by Liza Goddard.
Skippy was the marsupial equivalent to the likes of Lassie, Flipper and Rin Tin Tin, to name a few animal sleuths, solving all sorts of problems and achieving all manner of feats worthy of a superhero.
In addition to the TV series, in 1969 there was also the release of a feature-length film called Skippy and the Intruders. See the movie here.
Skippy’s iconic theme also proved to be a winner for transplanted Pom, Eric Jupp, who wrote and performed it. On the back of the successful son, Jupp released a series of Skippy-themed singles, including the main theme.
Skippy remained an integral part of the Australian TV landscape long after its original run.
In 1992, an updated version of the show ran, called The Adventures of Skippy.
In this show, Andrew Clarke played a grown Sonny Hammond, himself now a park ranger, but who retained strong ties to Skippy.
Even this series had a Japanese angle, as you can find out by watching the show below.
And, just as a bonus, here’s the French version of the show’s opening titles. Skippy – générique en français
Australia beef is the most visibly successful Australian export to Japan, leaving considerable distance to its closest rivals, which these days are probably Tim Tams, Miranda Kerr and hordes of drunken ocker snow bunnies in country towns like Niseko and Hakuba.
To be honest, Oz doesn’t really enter the consciousness of most Japanese, except for Aussie Beef, which is probably the first thing that comes to mind for many Nihonjin when asked about Oz.
And this year, Meat & Livestock Australia Ltd (MLA) is going all-out to try and convert Japanese consumers to worshiping the barbie in much the same manner that many Aussies do.
MLA is conducting a huge Let’s Barbie campaign to encourage people to use the summer months to enjoy munching away on some good old tucker.
The Let’s Barbie pop-up store in Tokyo’s trendy Aoyama district
And they’re using Strine to do it, too, with part of the campaign involving a pop-up shop placed smack-bang in the middle of Aoyama, one of Tokyo’s trendiest districts, and a huge sign urging passers-by to “barbie!”
The pop-up shop is offering demonstrations of cooking, Strayan-style, and serves up three different kinds of steak and salad “meat parfaits.” There’s Beauty, with lime and ginger, Genki, flavored by chili pepper and garlic, and Let’s Barbie, with lime and mint. All are delicious and served in a cup with salad and mashed spuds.
Part of the campaign is teaching the Japanese about how Aussies barbie. Here’s what the official Let’s Barbie campaign website says about the Barbie…
About the Barbie
What’s a Barbie? Barbecue Superpower Australia calls barbecues “barbies” and 3-4 times a week, (Aussies) enjoying tucking into thick-cut, Aussie Beef steaks and fresh salads anytime, anywhere. You can relax and enjoy them, and everybody’s all smiles out in the wilds of nature, which brings everybody closer. And the communication tool that brings that about is the Aussie-style barbecue: The Barbie.
Aussie lifestyle is about not putting on airs, and the real thrill of the barbie is being about enjoying communication with your mates and your family.
It’s hard to see what sort of impact the campaign will have. Japanese tend to be great barbecuers, anyway. And while many would gladly abide by the campaigns exhortations to get out and enjoy a good steak with your mates, most are stuck inside the office waiting for the boss to go home before they have any hope of being able to leave.