The Gruen Transfer is an Australian television program focusing on advertising, which debuted on The ABC on May 28, 2008. The program is hosted by comedian Wil Anderson, with a panel of advertising industry experts.
The title refers to the Gruen Transfer, the response to designed disorientation cues in retail environments to encourage impulse purchasing, named after Austrian architect Victor Gruen, who designed the first shopping mall (and who strongly opposed using the transfer technique).
During the 2010 and 2013 Australian election campaigns, the show temporarily became Gruen Nation, a version analyzing political spin, increasing the show's run for the year by four episodes.
In September 2011, the show re-branded itself as Gruen Planet, which broadens the show's scope to include all forms of spin and PR, rather than simply advertising.
During the 2012 Olympics, the show temporarily became Gruen Sweat, a version analyzing sports advertising with a particular focus on the Olympics, increasing the show's run for the year by four episodes.
After a hiatus, the show returned in 2015 as Gruen.
Current segments include:
- How Do You Sell?: This segment every week looks at advertising tactics used by advertisers. Topics covered include beer, underwear, chocolate and banks.
- Endorse Me: Wil Anderson gives the panel the challenge of finding a sponsor for people who are famous for all the wrong reasons. Examples include Carl Williams and David Hicks.
- The Pitch: Two advertising companies are given a brief to create an advertisement for an "unsellable" product. Previous examples have included whale meat, tourism in Baghdad, the beleaguered Australian Democrats political party, and a proposed invasion of New Zealand (which provoked a response from the New Zealand government and several NZ YouTube viewers, although the final episode of Series One provided some balance in the form of a promotion for tourists not to visit Australia). As of the 2011 season, they are sourcing their weekly Pitch from fan suggestions on Twitter and Facebook.
- Ad of the Week (from season three, known instead as Ad Crunch): Wil and the panel look at an ad and they discuss it and how effective it is.
- What Is This Ad for?: Wil shows the beginning of an ad but doesn't identify it and asks the panel to guess what it is for.
- What's Wrong With This Ad?: A semi-regular segment where Wil shows an ad (usually brought to the attention by viewers) and asks the panel the things they believe to be wrong about that ad. A previous example includes the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Heaven campaign (which emphasises low fat in its product), where a viewer commented that in the ad, even after dying and going to heaven, you still have to worry about your weight.
- Space Invaders: A semi-regular segment in which a real-life example of a new or unusual space for advertising is discussed. (Previous examples have included sheep jackets, children's books and on slums.) The panel are then challenged to figure out a worthwhile client for advertisements in that space.
- Time Tunnel: The panel goes back to look at an ad from several years ago, and compare the strategies used to modern advertising.
- God, I Hate That Ad!: A web exclusive segment where Wil will bring up a particular ad that he (or viewers) dislike and has the panel discuss it, whether it is bad or not, or why it is bad.
- What Does it Mean?: A web exclusive segment where Wil and the panel come to a consensus of what message an ad is trying to get across when it is not obvious.
- What Would Putin/Palmer/Poland/Kim Jong Un/Donald Trump Do?: First on Gruen Planet and then on Gruen, it discusses bizarre PR stunts pulled by Russian President Vladimir Putin. For the second season of Gruen Planet, Putin was replaced by Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer, for Gruen Nation 2013, Palmer was replaced by Polish advertisements and political campaigns, and for Gruen Planet 2013 the focus was on North Korea's Kim Jong Un, who was replaced by Donald Trump for Gruen, and then Justin Trudeau in 2016.
- Crisis Management: Wil and the panel look at a recent fuckup by a celebrity, politician or brand, and examine how it was handled, how they fucked it up and what they A, should have done instead, and B, should do now.
- Spin Cycle: The panel looks at three recent examples of people pulling stunts to get attention.
- The Image Renovators: The panel looks at the tactics used concerning celebrities whose images have taken a hit.
After the relaunch as Gruen in 2015, the sections alternate each week, depending on the type/genre of ad being focused on—with only "The Pitch" being constantly in the middle of each episode.
This show provides examples of:
- Almost all Advertising Tropes:
- Dada Ad: Making games of trying to figure them out.
- Perfume Commercial: The panel once noted that if you ever find yourself watching an ad and have no idea what its premise is or what product its advertising, its almost certainly a perfume ad. And then showed several sterling examples.
- Ridiculously Loud Commercial: Tackled here.
- And now, completely awful commercials! The search for the Worst. Ad. Ever.
- A Million is a Statistic: Occasionally, someone on the panel will say something incredibly heartless, and most of the rest of the panel won't get why everyone is so annoyed- quite a few of them can be incredibly amoral and hard-hearted.
- Arc Number: 25814062, the number used in the barcode that makes up part of the show's logo. If there's any significance/reason to it, we won't be finding it out anytime soon.
- Aside Glance: Todd glances into the camera whenever something ridiculous happens. So, constantly.
- Wil does a more overt version.
- Black Comedy: Endorse Me and Space Invaders often get really dark (to be fair, the panel almost never take said segments seriously). For example, the first Endorse Me segment (on Pope Benedict XVI) immediately had Dan and Todd making jokes about rape, Nazis and altar boys.
- Bragging Rights Reward: The Gruen Trophy received by winning The Pitch.
- The Gruen Golden Steak Knives and the Brown Logie, too.
- "I've done a dwarf!" — Dee Madigan
- Butt-Monkey: Russel Howcroft — being a wealthy, rather conservative-leaning lifelong ad-man — tends to find himself at the butt of many of the jokes that Wil and the others make.
- Catchphrase: Wil has several, but the most prominent is at the end of each segment: "Gruen Planet: [real ad slogan here]".
- Character Name Alias: When Wil submitted his DNA to Ancestry.com, he did so under the name 'Victor Gruen'; the architect after whom the show is named.
- Crazy Enough to Work: This was Wil's reaction when the show was pitched to him.
- Deadpan Snarker: The panellists can certainly be this at times, especially during segments like Endorse Me. Wil, for his his part, is this 90% of the time.
- Deconstruction: of advertising tropes.
- Double Entendre: The panel make quite a few of these, probably more often than intended. They, and the audience, usually end up cracking up as a result.
- The discussion on how to pour a glass of beer and produce a stable foamy top (the head) that can be used for commercial photography inevitably turns very dirty indeed.Dan: Look, in any money-shot involving head, the key is to pull back at the right moment.
- The discussion on how to pour a glass of beer and produce a stable foamy top (the head) that can be used for commercial photography inevitably turns very dirty indeed.
- Fun T-Shirt: Panel regular Todd Sampson usually wears these. Archive here.
- Freudian Trio
- Todd: Advertising must appeal to feelings (Id)
- Russel: You must present cold facts to convince. (Superego)
- Wil: Comedic balancing of the two with snarky remarks. (Ego)
- Godwin's Law: The first episode of the 2010 series included a discussion of the use of Adolf Hitler in advertising.
- Identical Stranger: Wil and Todd had a field day when panellist Stuart Gregor sat next to Russel, noting that the two look like brothers.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: "The Pitch" one week was to come up with an ad to promote tourism to the Canadian town of Asbestos.
- Lampshade Hanging: The disadvantage of having an infotainment show on the ABC with Wil Anderson as the host is that there are a lot of really sexual jokes tossed around. Wil responds to a line from Dan about head (as in beer ads) like so:And I thought this show was going to be so classy.
- Land Down Under: It says a lot about this show and Australia that the first How Do You Sell segment in the first episode was about beer.
- Les Yay: In discussing a Cathay Pacific advertisement, Wil was quick to notice that there seemed to be more than a bit of UST between a stewardess and a female flier.
- Literal Metaphor: In one episode, "The Pitch" was to sell ice to Eskimos.
- Mr. Fanservice: Todd and his tight shirts.
- Mood Whiplash: The show usually takes a light-hearted look at advertising, but every so often they discuss an advert discussing a very serious topic which, naturally, tends to put a stop to the humour. One notable example involved a very confronting PSA featuring Emma Thompson about the effects of human trafficking and the sex slavery trade, during which you could have heard a pin drop in the studio.
- Another was a British ad where a group of school children were asked their opinion of various objects that the camera didn't show. The children described why they did and didn't like certain objects and which one they'd choose over the others, ranging from (paraphrased) 'It says cool mint, that's really tasty' to 'It's red, and red's my favourite colour'... and then the camera showed the objects, and everyone realised that the kids were talking about cigarette cartons. Most if not all of the audience were horrified.
- Nine out of Ten Doctors Agree: Wil registered a company named Nine Out of Ten Experts, and offered to agree with any claim for a fee.
- No Smoking: Because tobacco advertising is banned on Australian television, Gruen could not even show any historic ads when discussing tobacco advertising. Lampshaded when Wil introduced several ads before throwing to shot of a completely unrelated product, before then explaining what was going on.
- Once an Episode: The music cueing up the Brown Logie gets either worse or weirder. Or both.
- Once a season or so, the name of the people Russel is working for changes.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Russel, the aforementioned wealthy conservative ad-man, railing against Queensland's new anti-bikie legislation.Dee Madigan: Good on you. I don't know who you are, but good on you.Wil: The only thing I can work out is that on the way in here tonight, a bikie has killed Russel and is wearing his skin.
- ...Or So I've Heard: When discussing the 'Black Friday' phenomenon, Wil says:Even drug dealers are offering Black Friday deals...Or so I hear
- Panel Show
- Polish the Turd: Taken rather literally by the 2010 season, given the prize for the Worst Ad Of All Time is the Gruen Polished Turd. Taken to a meta-level by the increasingly flamboyant ways the trophy was presented before the audience.
- Politics Tropes: Gruen Nation
- A Rare Sentence: While discussing superannuation advertising, Wil says:"But my favourite super ad—Honestly, not something I ever thought I'd say..."
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Often raised when the disconnect between what's in the advert and the real thing is raised. In particular, the classic 'the burger looks different in the advert than in the packet' complaint was addressed when one of the panelists pointed out that with all of the artificial, toxic and unpleasant things that are done in preproduction to get the burger in the advert looking 'perfect', it would be a much bigger concern if you were to get one of those kinds of burgers served to you. In another example, Russel countered the argument that paying for bottled water was a rip-off when you could get it for free from your tap by pointing out that technically tap water isn't free; you have to pay local water rates to have access to it.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Wil is the Red to the entire panel's Blue.
- Todd is the Red to Russel's Blue.
- Running Gag:
- Gruen Nation and the 1949 ad for E.V.B. Sampson, Independent Country Party Candidate for Wollondilly.
- For the 2011 season, riffing on Coles' "DOWN DOWN PRICES ARE DOWN" advertisement series and its giant red hand paraphernalia quickly turned into one as well.
- Making fun of Russel after he says something exceedingly materialistic (or that can be construed to be bragging about his wealth) is one.
- The utterly hilarious sound effects heralding the arrival of the Golden Steak Knives/Brown Logie, too.
- From 2013's Gruen Planet, Wil's obsession with Niall from One Direction.
- Across all seasons, Wil comparing himself to Adam Hills.
- Serious Business: Advertising, naturally. In particular, Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft — who are from different agencies and also have different approaches and philosophies towards advertising and its ethical implications — can get into some pretty heated debates at times. This has been lampshaded:Wil: What I loved about that was you both said the same thing but still managed to disagree.
- Sexy Stewardess: Cropped up a few times in the third season (and discussed in-depth in the final episode) with examples of this trope in advertising, in particular focussing on the efforts of two low-budget Russian airlines to tap into this trope (an ad with sexy stewardesses washing a plane in bikinis in one example, and a nudie stewardess calendar released by another).
- Take That!: Quite a few, actually. Often during Endorse Me or Space Invaders.
- That Came Out Wrong: An unintentional Funny Moment occurred during a discussion of an ad for women's razors. Carolyn Miller affirmed that there are young men today who have never seen female pubic hair. Russel then remarked "apart form their mother's". As the rest of the panel collapsed in a mix of shock, disbelief and hilarity, Russel hurriedly tried to explain that he had meant when they were born, but the explanation was lost under the hysterical laughter. Just to add the icing to the cake? Russel's mother was in the audience.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Todd and Russel come off as this quite a lot.
- The Watson: Wil, who is not involved in the advertising industry, is the one who helps explain/gets the panel to explain things to the audience.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: A metaphorical version - Gruen Nation noted that the Coalition was unwilling to make ads attacking Julia Gillard herself (as opposed to the Labor Party) until near the end of the 2010 election campaign, where things got increasingly off the handle.