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by Christine Sams
March 12, 2006
ACTOR Sam Neill is spruiking the benefits of eating meat while musician Missy Higgins tells people to go vegetarian as celebrity-fronted food campaigns prove the hottest trend in advertising.
Neill has taken part in his first advertising campaign - to promote red meat - as part of a deal with Meat and Livestock Australia.
In the big-budget advertisement, which is due to appear on Australian television screens for the first time tonight, Neill uses the slogan "Red meat, we were meant to eat it".
"Lean meat three or four times a week is still an essential part of the diet of the most highly developed species on the planet," he says in the ad, part of a five-week campaign.
The high-profile involvement of Neill is a coup for meat producers, who are fighting critics who say Australians should eat less red meat.
"I think Sam brings a unique combination of great trust and credibility because he's viewed not just as a celebrity, but as a person in the public eye with credibility," said David Thomason, general manager of marketing at Meat and Livestock Australia.
"It's also his role as an actor that brings warmth and humour to the whole thing.
"This is the first advertising Sam's ever been involved in, so we're delighted," he added. "But it's down to the fact that we're not a commercial enterprise, but we're representing an industry . . . one that's very important, particularly in regional Australia."
Neill's involvement also signals a battle of celebrity loyalties to meat-eating and vegetarianism, which is becoming more pronounced in Australian advertising. After comedian Sam Kekovich's now-notorious campaign for lamb, celebrities including Missy Higgins threw their support behind giving up meat.
In her advertising campaign for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Higgins holds a piglet under the slogan "Need Another Reason To Go Vegetarian?".
"I much prefer eating green vegetables to meat anyway," Higgins has said.
"We haven't thought of it as a being a war of celebrities, but the important part for us is about getting the message across," Mr Thomason said.
"Red meat certainly does have its critics out there, who argue that we should be eating much less [or none at all] but our campaign is really about putting that back into context."
While Neill's fee for the meat ad has not been revealed, the big-budget campaign was created by Sydney agency the Campaign Palace.