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

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 2012, 2 (1), pp. 9 - 22
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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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