Brandzac Day: Biscuits, hoodies and Anzac branding on the Gallipoli centenary

The word Anzac is protected by law, but what will safeguard the truth of Gallipoli, as its commemoration is turned into a nationalist circus?

Brandzac Day

WHILE THE free speech debate in Europe is still on the boil, in Australia, use of the word 'Anzac' could land you in jail.

Anzac, which stands for Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps, is an acronym so sacred that it’s protected by an act of Parliament. But that hasn’t stopped Australia’s corporate retailers from profiting off this year’s Gallipoli centenary.

According to the 1920 Protection of the Word Anzac Act, only the government can give permission to use ‘Anzac’. Offenders could face fines or up to 12 months in prison.

With the onslaught of centenary commemorations this year, the Department of Veterans' Affairs has promised to crackdown on any unauthorised uses of Anzac. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Michael Ronaldson, warned brands against trivialising the word Anzac and using it for commercial gain.

Ronaldson’s warning followed public outcry and much satire over Australian supermarket chain Woolworths’ 2015 Anzac Day campaign. To mark the centenary, Woolworths launched its ‘Fresh in our memories’ campaign, giving customers a space to post stories and memories of those affected by war.

When Woolworths failed to apply for permission to use ‘Anzac’, the supermarket had to have been aware of the risk of incurring a $50,000 fine. What it wasn’t prepared for was the satirical counter campaign deriding Woolworths across social media.

‘Fresh in our memories’ allowed people to change their social media profile picture to one of a person affected by war - someone they wanted to remember. After uploading a photo via the Woolworths website, a picture generator branded the image with the Woolworths logo and framed it with: “Lest We Forget Anzac 1915-2015. Fresh in our memories."

Following the Woolworths promotional slogan, "Fresh Food People," the pictures became veritable adverts for the store chain. ‘Fresh in our memories’ was pulled after a string of satirical posts on social media.

The Woolworths farce is reminiscent of last year’s cynical exploitation of WW1 in the UK by Sainsburys. In the overtly sentimentalised and historically inaccurate Sainsburys Christmas Truce advert, British and German soldiers share friendship and chocolate in December 1914.

The advert glosses past the fact that WW1 killed 15 million people, laid the groundwork for the causes of World War Two and was a military disaster and a human catastrophe. Never mind the mutinies, strikes and mass desertions, which majorly contributed to the end of the war.

Sainsburys was selling more than chocolate. The Christmas Truce advert perpetuates a myth about The First World War.

Another sweet snack eaten by soldiers is used to cement the Anzac myth: the Anzac biscuit. Australia grants a general exemption for biscuits. There is no need to apply for the government’s permission.

But watch out: Australia’s traditional baked goodies must be true to the original Anzac biscuit recipe. In 2008, Subway was refused permission because the recipe used did not comply with the original.

And they must be named correctly. The proper term is Anzac biscuit. If ‘Anzac’ is used to refer to ‘Anzac cookies’, however, that’s a different story. “Referring to these products as ‘Anzac Cookies’ is generally not approved, due to the non-Australian overtones.”

Why does the Australian government approve Anzac centenary commemoration with nationalistic biscuit sales, but not with a supermarket marketing strategy?

What all this means is that Australia is more concerned about pushing a national brand than with maintaining historical authenticity.

For instance, a permit was granted to Target to sell a range of ‘Anzac’ merchandise. After the Department for Veterans Affairs complained, Target removed some items deemed “inappropriate” because they did not meet standards. The Camp Gallipoli hoodie, beanie and stubby cup holder had to be removed because they did not meet the Anzac branding guidelines.

Target did not remove Camp Gallipoli swags, candles, T-shirts, totes and duffle bags, all still appropriate for sale. These are paraphernalia for the special overnight Anzac Day sleepout Camp Gallipoli.

The event advertises the Anzac ‘spirit’ about mateship, national character, resilience, sacrifice:

"Mates coming together on one special night to commemorate the deeds of those brave Anzac's one hundred years ago, eating great tucker, watching historic footage on huge screens, seeing iconic entertainers live on stage and camping in authentic swags will in itself create history."

Lest we forget the facts: The British-led military invasion of Gallipoli resulted in over 200,000 dead and wounded in an eight-month period, including: 80,000 Turkish, 8,700 Australian, 2,700 New Zealand, 34,000 British, 9,800 French and 1,350 Indian troops.

The Australian government is spending $300 million commemorating the WWI centenary to promote militarism and nationalist myths, justify new wars and glorify old wars.

Anzac Day has come to define Australia’s national history. While the Department for Veterans Affairs bans Anzac hoodies and restricts the sale of biscuits, veterans groups have condemned the "nationalist circus" that Anzac Day has become.

The word Anzac is protected by law, but what will safeguard the truth of Gallipoli?

Source: No Glory in War

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