The word ‘Anzac’ occupies a sacred place in the national cultures of Australia and New Zealand but that hasn’t stopped unscrupulous businesses exploiting the Anzac legend for profits, shows research by The New Daily.
Public use of the acronym is protected by special laws. Since 1916 use of the phrase ‘Anzac’ has been protected by federal law, which has been expanded and tightened many times since. No person, company or charity can use the word in public promotions without written consent from the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs.
However, as Australians prepare to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, the commercial appropriation of the ‘Anzac’ banner has moved into overdrive, and in many cases is ignoring the law.
A survey of contemporary Anzac-themed marketing campaigns by The New Daily shows that marketers are ignoring the laws to tap our nationalism for their own corporate ends.
What are we selling?
RSL National President, retired Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, says his organisation is aware of unauthorised use of Anzac signage.
“It’s happening all time,” he says. “We refer all these matters to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to be assessed.”
The department is responsible for enforcing the “Protection of Word ‘Anzac’ Regulations”.
Despite laws forbidding the unauthorised use of the word, it remains unclear how seriously the department takes the commercial exploitation of the word. The department is usually successful in getting online vendors, such as Zazzle, to withdraw undignified and almost pornographic products (see right).
In 2008 the American-owned fast food chain Subway elected to drop “ANZAC cookies” from its menu after the Department of Veterans’ Affairs ordered it to bake the item according to an original Australian recipe.
The department also ordered the company to drop the word “cookie” because it was a word not of Australian origin and could not be associated with the recipe. The law doesn’t seem to apply to Zazzle though, which continues to market an “ANZAC Cookie” mug on the web.
The Anzac mug costs $26.95 but it is not clear whether a portion of the profit on this product is donated to an Australian charity. Another website, www.redbubble.com, offers a poster of a poppy-strewn memorial engraved with names of fallen soldiers for $607.07 to put on your wall.
Has the government dropped the ball?
Under the regulations, using the word ‘Anzac’ in connection with any entertainment, trade, business, calling or profession requires permission from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
A spokesperson for Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson said the government is committed to protecting the Anzac name against commercial exploitation.
“The minister considers each application for use of the word ‘Anzac’ on its merits,” the spokesman says.
“It is important that the Anzac legacy is respected and not exploited for commercial gain. While it is not a requirement of the act, for any business who seeks approval for the use of the word Anzac, the minister requires that a financial donation be made to a veteran or ex-service organisation.”
However, Jo Hawkins of the University of Western Australia says ministerial approval for commercial use of the term has led to some unusual outcomes.
Ms Hawkins, who previously worked as an advertising and marketing consultant, is researching how marketers have built an industry around the Anzac name. She observes that marketing for a government-sponsored national tour of War Museum artefacts has been compromised by a “concert spectacular” headlined by country and western singer Lee Kernaghan.
The tour of artefacts, billed as ‘The Spirit of Anzac’, will hit the road in September at the same time that Kernaghan and a cavalcade of celebrities entertain thousands of Aussies at ‘The Spirit of the Anzacs’ concert.
Tickets to the Kernaghan concerts, which also feature actors Lisa McCune and Jack Thompson, will cost $89 each.
— Jo Hawkins (@history_punk) March 25, 2015
“It’s very unfortunate that a private event is occurring at the same time as an official event of the centenary with both marketed under the same name,” Ms Hawkins says.
“It must have been a mistake – if the Department of Veterans’ Affairs knew both events were occurring at the same time I can’t see how it could have been approved.”
Dr David Stephens, an historian who has monitored the mutation of Anzac culture in the past two decades, is calling on organisers of ‘The Spirit of the Anzacs’ tour to disclose who will receive the profits.
“The organisers have said that three dollars on each ticket will go to charity, so who is getting the rest?”
Dr Stephens, who operates a website called Honest History, believes the commercialisation of Anzac Day is out of control. He is particularly critical of operators of cruising tours to Anzac Cove this year who have organised for guests to be entertained by celebrities such as Bert Newton.
“We’re being Anzacked-out,” Dr Stephens argues.
“I reckon there are a lot of people out there who are concerned about the overblown nature of the celebrations, but they’re afraid to put up their hands because they fear being seen as disloyal.”