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Putting the tea in Australia: The Bushells brand 1998–2006

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After the national election win of the Liberal National Coalition in March 1996, Australia experienced more than ten years of contentious public debate. Discussions about Australia's history and future raged with an intensity that both highlighted and problematized the very notion of national identity. During this period, the television commercials for tea brand Bushells paralleled changes in Australia's political culture. In various ways, events of epochal significance, both in Australia and abroad, surfaced in the brand's promotions. These campaigns not only showed the increasing difficulty of picturing Australianness; they also showed that, no matter how fragmented Australian culture became, there remained a lingering bias to certain images, ideals and values. As the Australian electorate became more insular, parochial and conservative, Bushells followed suit. This article considers how Bushells drew symbolic markers from popular culture – the worlds of celebrity, sport, cinema and so on – in a bid to remain relevant, endearing and likeable. It therefore shows that, for a commodity as basic as tea, much can be gleaned about the contemporary political mood through the vernacular rhetoric of television advertising.
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Keywords: Australia; Bushells; advertising; branding; national identity; tea

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Macquarie University

Publication date: 07 June 2012

More about this publication?
  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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