The Australian advertising and creative community is recoiling in horror over the nation’s video pitch for the 2022 World Cup, which featured accused tax avoider Paul Hogan dressed as Mad Max, Ian Thorpe dressed as a surf lifesaver and an animated kangaroo.

The embarrassing clip, presented to the 22 FIFA executives who will decide the bid’s fate by shopping centre magnate Frank Lowy and 1980s model Elle Macpherson in Zurich overnight, depicts the brazen theft of the cup by the fugitive marsupial, which then hops across the ocean to the Antipodes.

In an excruciating attempt to pack as many clichéd Down Under motifs into one six-minute sequence as possible, Cathy Freeman is shown running, “multicultural” youth play kickabout beside Uluru and Thorpe spots the kangaroo surfing with the cup off Bondi Beach.

After being informed of the FIFA break-in, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who many of the septuagenarian male delegates would struggle to recognise, bizarrely dispatches a leather-clad Hogan to ensure the cup’s safe return.

“Yes … yes, we want the World Cup to come to Australia but not that way. Find that kangaroo, bring back the cup,” Gillard drawls.

Branding expert Stephen Downes told Crikey that the effort, directed by Phillip Noyce (Sliver) and overseen by Lowy and North Melbourne defender-turned Football Federation of Australia CEO Ben Buckley, was “cringe worthy”, “ham-fisted”, and demonstrated an “unsophisticated immaturity”.

“What’s the objective? It seems like the whole message of the video is how much Australia wants the World Cup, so much so that a clichéd cartoon kangaroo would steal the cup from FIFA headquarters, and not about what staging the World Cup in Australia would do for FIFA and the game in general.”

“There’s been a lot of talk during the bid process about Australia as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, but there’s no reference to Asia whatsoever — the kangaroo hops on a flight straight from FIFA to Australia and there’s not even a stopover in Singapore.”

Popular Gruen Transfer panellist and Y&R Brands chief Russel Howcroft told Crikey he, simply, “stopped watching it”.

In the final scenes, the Los Angeles-based Hogan reclaims the trophy for the notoriously corrupt governing body before a group of Cronulla-style fanatics at the Sydney Football Stadium.

A monotone Gillard has the last line: “Gentlemen, rest assured that the precious World Cup trophy is back with you. And please forgive our kangaroo for borrowing it for a while, she just wanted to demonstrate the passion of Australians for the World Cup. So now it’s over to you to make the dream of entire continent come true.”

An unexplained roll-call of expat celebrities, including Hugh Jackman, then caps the presentation.

“There’s a lot of irony in the fact that celebrities featured there are based overseas for access, or in Paul Hogan’s case, tax reasons. It’s also ironic that the good guy that gets the cup back from the kangaroo is actually a fugitive from the tax system himself,” Downes said.

PR doyen Noel Turnbull told Crikey that the “World Cup bid is another ridiculous example of our cultural cringe and our mistaken belief that bread and circuses are good for the economy.” He likened the “irreverent and wacky” clip to the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games:

“Let’s be realistic — you might as well have fun now because, if by some ill-luck we got the cup, we will be paying for it for years after FIFA has sliced its share of the top, bottom and middle.”

Noyce, who in his glory days directed The Dismissal — a cracking look at the last days of the Whitlam government featuring Ruth Cracknell as Margaret — was actively courted by the bid team. His effort chafes with the impressive Qatar video, which depicts a sweeping panorama of an awakening Middle East drawing on deep, almost Biblical themes.

Jackman has previously flirted with the marsupial motif. This infamous Saturday Night Live clip shows the Hollywood walk-of-famer’s father being repeatedly sodomised by an oversized kangaroo bearing a strong resemblance to the Noyce caricature.

The all-male panel will deliver its verdict on Australia’s bid later tonight.

Peter Fray

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