The failure of Russian forces to achieve their Ukrainian objectives is said to have surprised nobody more than their commander-in-chief. This is apparently because for some time now Mr Putin, like all paranoid psychopathic autocratic despots, has only sought counsel from a coterie of Duma da-men who dare not tell him anything he might not want to hear. So when he spit-balled the notion of liberating the neighbours from Nazi oppression, instead of alerting him to the possibility that some of those neighbours might not want to be liberated, and that some Russian squaddies might not be up to the job, it was the default of these terrified toadies to assure their leader that his plan was genius, that the incursion of Russian forces would be unopposed and that crowds of grateful Ukrainians would cheer Russian tanks down the streets of Kiev much as Parisians had welcomed Allied troops in 1944.
When it became clear that none of the above was on the cards, Mr Putin may have asked these same advisers – over a Kremlin working lunch, perhaps – to lift their game a bit. Or he could simply have had their blinis spiked with Novichok. But while we’ll never know the fate of most of them, we can be fairly sure that the one who assured his boss that most East Ukrainians can’t wait to have him as their leader did manage to flee the country before the midnight knock on the dacha door. And equally sure that this man is now in Australia, working as an adviser to the ALP federal election team. How else to explain Mr Albanese’s conviction that his appearance on a Byron Bay stage last week would be applauded? How else to account for his rictus of baffled fear when he realised he had single-handedly transformed Bluesfest into boo’s fest?
The war in Ukraine has galvanised Western nations like nothing since Eurovision, and the initial reluctance of some leaders to offer President Zelensky assistance has now given way to a competition to see who can help the most. Australia got off to a very good start by despatching twenty of the Bushmaster armoured troop carriers the Ukrainian leader specifically asked for when he addressed our Parliament, thereby making the Bushmaster Australia’s most requested engineering export since the Hills Hoist. At time of writing, Scott Morrison has announced no further plans to send any other military hardware to Ukraine, but I am reliably informed that in anticipation of President Zelensky persuading Nato to declare his country a no-fly zone, a warehouse close to RAAF Base Amberley has already been stockpiled with millions of cans of Mortein.
I do not make Mortein’s advertising, but if I had the account I think I might have been tempted, over the past few weeks, to suggest that the company adopt ‘Make your home a no-fly zone’ as a new slogan. Much as I was tempted, during the Balkan conflicts of the Nineties to advise my friends at Carlton United to introduce a premium after dinner tipple called Ethnic Cleansing Ale. I did no such thing, of course. But it’s not all that long ago that many Australian advertisers actively courted outrage and controversy, hoping that the column inches and screen time it might generate would exceed the reach of their meagre marketing budgets. When Adidas first came to Australia they brought only their shoes, and only enough money to make one ad. Because of its strapline, ‘Nobody said you can’t wear performance enhancing shoes’, the ad I gave them got pulled within days, but not before it had been the subject of parliamentary debate and not before the story had been covered by every major daily. Needless to say, Adidas shoes were like hens’ teeth for the next six months.
These days the only forum for advertising of questionable taste is that bit on Gruen where real ad agencies present ads they’ve created at the behest of the show’s producers rather than a real client and for a cause rather than a real brand. This is invariably a money-losing exercise for the agency, and the exposure never results in the acquisition of a real client. But it’s fun, so I usually accept the invitation, and this year I have made an ad which makes the case for Australia to become a republic. The contract I signed prevents me saying anything about this ad other than that the referendum it’s bound to trigger will be a formality. And that David Flint will never speak to me again.
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