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The making of "the meaning of mate"

There is no word quite as versatile as the Australian "mate". Down under they can use it to mean almost anything, for example, mate number eight means "Liar" and mate number three means "this is actually seriously bad news and I have nothing else to say". My personal favourite is mate number eighteen, as I've used it a lot.

(All links in this article that used to lead to themeaningofmate.com have been removed as they now link to a Japanese porn site)

So whose brilliant idea was it to make the meaning of mate and how on earth did they pull that off? Lucky for me, bending David Gillespie's ear (seen in Twitter as @davidgillespie ) with a shotgun barrage of weird Q's was met with a salvo of answers. Take the mike, David:

"TheMeaningOfMate.com started as an idea I had last year for some sort of digital shrine to the word "Mate" - at least in the manner that Australians use it. As I wrote about here, it was meant to be an idea that was done a bit later in the year, but the other thing that a team has been working on all this time got a little delayed. I went to good friends Matty Roberts and Josh Capelin with the idea as I thought not only would they be willing co-conspirators, they would make the idea even better; they delivered in spades.

I also thought Matty would be the perfect person to deliver the "Mates" which is why he was approached in the first place. In addition to working in creative and production, Matty has done quite a bit of acting and prepared specifically for this role by spending far too much time in the pub. He also featured prominently in a Carlton Draft Ad, a spot which spawned a 40,000-member fan group on Facebook for him - you can see the original ad here:

As for the "Why" or "What for", there's a few reasons. One is just because the idea made us laugh. I can't say we wouldn't have been disappointed if nobody shared it, but the point is we thought it was funny, wanted to bring it to life, and thought it would find an audience.

Another was just something we all felt in the increasing importance of doing personal projects, as much for your own body of work as for the simple sake of sanity. I had foolishly written down goals for the year which now seems like a particularly dangerous habit to have started. One of them was executing a series of personal projects, and The Meaning Of Mate was on the list. The projects we've done simply for the joy of doing them have always brought far more pleasure than any client brief or office space; I don't see that doing anything other than continuing. Autonomy has become vastly more enticing than security, and my sense is that is more a generational thing than simply something we've stumbled upon.

The timing itself was driven by Matty. I only shared the idea with Josh and Matty on January 12th. Matty insisted, rightfully so, that Australia Day (January 26th) would be the perfect day to launch it. Following that we had a mad 10 day scramble to pull the right team together. The man who shot it, Davros El Davros is a quiet genius and an absolute craftsman. Anyone who wants to reach him can find him at www.davros.tv

On the design side, I used to work at Profero Sydney with a brilliant young designer, Julia Guo. She bought into the idea and again made it better, and also managed to coerce another former workmate, Bevan Dunning into lending his handy coding skills to bring it to life. If Julia and Bevan had not come on board, there's no way we would have gotten it done in time. The entire thing was designed, shot, edited and the site built in the weekend preceding Australia Day. Stressful, but fun.

As for if we're always this hilarious, you're asking the wrong person (though Matty said "Yes."). I happen to be one of the worst joke tellers on the planet, I will single-handedly destroy the best jokes you can offer me, I'm useless. Matty is hysterical though, and Josh is never found without a smile on his face, they're both priceless company.

This was not produced for or by an agency, at least not in a conventional sense. I'd say that's one of the reasons it worked, but then that's perhaps a little too cynical of me.

I've recently started a company called Collector's Edition. It's a new kind of entertainment consultancy, less about specific mediums more so about taking ideas and bringing them to life using mediums that make sense. One of the projects planned for later in the year is an album by a great new band we're keeping under wraps. When we release it though, a broader online experience will be online, participation from the audience will be part of it and hopefully add to the work. We're really making it up as we go, but honestly feel like there is a new space entertainment can exist within that isn't just film, TV, music, books, whatever. We can tie things together in new ways, The Meaning Of Mate is part of that, the aim being that one day people will say "Have you seen the new thing from Collector's Edition?" - ideally it will defy categorisation a little bit. During the day I work at Big Spaceship, and before advertising, I made video games; all part of a plan to not really ever have to grow up it would seem.

Josh and Matty run Projucer. Projucer is a new media and ventures consultancy, based in Sydney, Australia. We apply ourselves to building new models of entertainment through content generation and commercial opportunities. Meaning of Mate is our latest venture, closely following collaborative consumption based surfboard hire boutique The Vintage Boardroom. Client-side we've done work for Australia's big 4 banks, sporting codes including Rugby Union and Australian Rules Football and lifestyle brand Onitsuka Tiger.

Several people wondered aloud if this was from an agency and especially if it was for a beer company. There was one popular culture blog in particular who told us they loved the idea but the can was too recognisable (as Australian beer brand VB) - if they wrote about it it would be tantamount to product promotion which they wouldn't do unless they got paid by the company. Obviously hearing that kind of thing when your one goal was to entertain people is fairly maddening. The irony is also of course if it had been from a beer brand, it might have been even more widely accepted and shared. Maybe it could have won an award, who knows?

The only other thing we'd like to share is that so many people from the advertising world have written in and said they would like to do more outside advertising and be involved in projects like this. One guy said "I'd love to work for Collector's Edition" to which I responded, "So would I!"

The best way to do things outside advertising is to do things outside of advertising. We're our own worst enemies slaving on clients we don't like and drinking ourselves into a stupor each night to compensate. Get out of the bars and go make something! Ideas are cheap, making is everything, and that's the only way any of us are ever going to get to where we need to be."

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Nate the Mate's picture

Great interview. Thanks. I miss the "Mate" website. Those clips were all really bloody funny. Could you maybe archive them?