Libby & Ben wins National Rural Fire Authority account; longstanding mascot Bernie faces uncertain future

Creative agency Libby & Ben has picked the National Rural Fire Authority account after a creative pitch understood to have involved two other agencies.

Agency co-founder Ben Crawford says the participants in the pitch were given a “relatively open brief” to develop a strategic and creative idea to improve the effectiveness of the government agency in raising awareness of rural fires. 

The most recent agency to have worked on the account was Running with Scissors, which in 2014 gave the organisation’s longstanding cartoon mascot, Bernie, a makeover.

But the rotund character, which has for around 18 years appeared in creative for the National Fire Service, will no longer be playing as big a role for the orgnisation in the future.

Crawford says while Bernie is well liked and recognised, he isn’t necessarily all that effective at relaying the core message of the client to the community. 

Crawford says Bernie has until now functioned more as a symbol of the start of summer than a reminder of the dangers of rural fires.       

He says the agency has not yet decided whether Bernie will be removed from creative entirely, but added that the mascot will definitely be “taking a backseat” in the future comms plan.

The National Rural Fire Authority normally releases an annual campaign in October or November in preparation for summer, and Crawford says the challenge lies in working with media agency Carat in delivering a message that appeals to both farmers and travellers—two groups that are rarely, if ever, coupled together in an advertising comms plans.  

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