In 1997, Qantas launched the first of what would become an enduring series of TV commercials using the Peter Allen classic musical piece, “I still call Australia home” (ISCAH). The original featured Kate Cebrano and James Morrison.

In 2009, Qantas ran a version that replaced the entire first verse with one sung in Kala Lagaw Ya, a dialect of the Torres Strait Islands. This version was performed by the Gondwana National Indigenous Children’s Choir and the Sydney Children’s Choir as well as the Australian Girls Choir and National Boys Choir.


a&b monitored the performance of this TV commercial as part of a brand and advertising study commissioned by Qantas.

We found that the ad was the perfect embodiment of the power of emotional advertising. At the time, it out-scored all campaigns that we had evaluated. Specifically,  across all the ads that a&b had tested, ISCAH had by far the highest recall, correct branding and appeal scores.

Overall awareness of ISCAH at 85% was 2.5 times the average recall of all a&b measured TV ads and 80% higher than the category benchmark for those who fly domestically.

Almost all domestic flyers (90%) correctly branded ISCAH as a Qantas ad – this was almost 70% above our usual benchmarks.

Appeal of the ISCAH ad, at 73%, was also significantly higher than average. Importantly, while many people tend to be ambivalent about advertising (i.e. many tend to say that they “neither like nor dislike the ad”), this was not the case for ISCAH with only 16% being ambivalent.

The ad had strong emotional impact on domestic flyers; it scored significantly above average on: “gave me positive feelings” (71%), “believable” (61%) and “conveyed the airline’s commitment to being “Australia’s Airline” “(82%).

It successfully conveyed the messages that:

  • Qantas is an Australian brand/ owned/ airline
  • Qantas represents Australia’s diversity
  • Qantas is proud of the indigenous people
  • Qantas takes you anywhere in the world

But why did it so heavily engage the audience? What was the ‘magic’ that touched people so – What made it a GREAT ad?

We believe it was the perfect ad for that special time. It hit the nail firmly on the head, delivering Qantas as a potent icon of a new optimism in Australia’s journey.

How so?

Less than a year before the launch of this re-cut version, Australia was buoyed by the release of tension in indigenous relationships via Kevin Rudd’s “Sorry” speech. The future suddenly looked brighter.

Qantas leveraged Australian pride, parochialism and societal reconciliation powerfully – delivering the unity of white and indigenous via Australian kids singing in their respective tongues. A QVerb analysis (see Appendix) of the language used by survey participants showed that the advertising reflected, via the use of children, that Qantas is the trusted adult who can be trusted to convey precious humanity all around the world and bring them home again safely. The nostalgia of ‘coming home’ was a truism; travel is wonderful, but nothing beats the return to familiar surroundings.

And in many senses, these are timeless values. However, commercial imperatives demanded a shift of focus. Qantas looked to a new, vibrant product-focussed communications territory and left behind ISCAH, on a high, in 2010.



In 2011, Bupa was set to change the Australia private health insurance landscape for ever. An earlier merger between Bupa’s Australian arm (which, prior to the merger, comprised HBA and Mutual Community) and insurance group MBF was to be launched.

To the goal of achieving stronger differentiation in the category and to offer ongoing value to the market beyond price alone, working with a&b, Bupa Australia developed a new customer value proposition, summarised as “Working with you to be healthier”.

A Bupa brand advertising campaign was developed to the idea ‘What would you do if you met the healthier version of yourself’.

A series of TV commercials was launched, each of which featured a vignette of ordinary people meeting their healthier self.

In-market testing, using a&b’s PHIBIS research platform, revealed just how successful the campaign was. All the executions far exceeded the levels of impact and engagement of any other category ads ever tested.

They were particularly thought provoking for the audience, a common summary communication received was “how different could/would my/our life be with different health and lifestyle choices…” and benefit rich in interpretation, “Will give me a positive change in life, to look better and feel better”.

The ads also conveyed new messaging for the category – promoting the value of prevention, not just cure… “I’d imagine a broad range of services leading to prevention or at least early intervention”. With Bupa firmly linked to the benefit…”Bupa is about caring for you, going the extra mile to help you be better, be healthier”.

What proved most penetrating and engaging was a leverage of a deeply held belief – inculcated in us since birth – that we should ‘be the best you can be’. And to be anything less than this brings guilt, shame, a sense of being incomplete.


The Link – growth and betterment

Both the Qantas and the Bupa ads scored amazingly well on a&b’s communications measurement systems because they both tapped into something deeper than just the manifest imagery or messaging. They were both ads that meant something deeper.

Qantas’ 2009 ISCAH commercial tapped into a sense of pride and optimism that wrapped the brand with the hopes for a brighter, fairer, caring future. Bupa reminded us of a basic lesson learned from a time when we were just knee-high; to be the best one can be – to strive and grow.

This is not to say that successful ads need to echo growth and betterment, but rather where ads tap into deeply held hopes or fears, a brand can benefit from the strong engagement that can occur.

APPENDIX: What is QVerb?

The importance of verbatim responses in quantitative surveys is widely accepted. These responses offer essential insight into customer perceptions, attitudes and behaviour that simply cannot be obtained from the imposed, artificial categorizations of closed questions. In allowing customers and potential customers to express their opinions in their own language, narrative and free-form style, verbatim responses do indeed accurately represent the ‘voice of the market’.

Inadequacy of traditional approaches

Yet despite widespread recognition of the importance of this data, traditional, standard analysis techniques have been found wanting.  Without a specialist, skilled approach or a formalised, detailed analysis structure this rich data is often ‘flattened out’ and ‘sanitized’ with much valuable insight being lost.  Intelligent and consistent handling of the transition from qualitative feedback to quantitative findings is absolutely critical, yet often overlooked.

Our response

QVerb is a&b’s response to this need. Over the past ten years we have established a team of researchers with specific language expertise and the sole remit of developing a quantitative text measurement system which accurately, reliably and consistently delivers the ‘true’ customer voice to our clients.

QVerb has been developed from the extensive handling of ‘feedback rich’ studies such as Advertising Effectiveness and Customer Satisfaction where responses are often highly detailed and in-depth, consistent analysis is necessary to provide actionable, trackable and highly targeted recommendations.

Key characteristics

QVerb then is a unique and holistic, ‘best practice’ analysis system for verbatim responses. Some of the key attributes of this product include:

  • Deep Textual Analysis explores semantics, language choice and sentiment expression to reveal underlying themes such as emotional impact (if any), likely motivation and perceptions of personal relevance. QVerb also explores the contrast between implicit and explicit meaning, where applicable
  • Verbatim Measures and Category Nets such as ‘eMotive’ provide targeted and consistently quantifiable parameters to gauge key several aspects of feedback. These measures allow cross product/service comparability, the establishment of normative levels/performance indices and quantifiable tracking of perception changes over time
  • Hierarchy Identification via multi-level drill-down and data sifting
  • Category Targeting through tailored evolution to meet specific/ongoing requirements – QVerb is a dynamic tool
  • Insightful commentary and actionable recommendations rather than descriptive narrative – meaning not observation. All QVerb outputs are provided with written analysis produced by our specialist team

To learn how a&b can add value to your organisation’s marketing and business strategy, contact us:
+61 (2) 8227-5400


Download link: QVerb- Deep text Analysis