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2003/81/3 Animation cel, original artwork, featuring 'Norm' from the 'Life. Be in it' campaigns, acetate / paper / cardboard, drawn by Alexander Stitt, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia, 1993-1994. Click to enlarge.

Animation cel of ‘Norm’ from the ‘Life. Be in it’ campaign

Artist
The 'Life. Be in it' campaign was a Victorian State Government initiative, launched in 1975. Initially intended purely as a campaign to encourage people to get out and get some exercise, it was an immediate success and by late 1977 it had become a national program supported by all Australian governments, state and Federal. The messages promulgated by the program expanded to promote not only fitness but also quality of life. In 1981 Federal funding was abruptly terminated and 'Life. Be in it' became a not-for-profit company, an early example of privatisation. In April 1998 the 'Life. Be in it' Australia company went into liquidation, although its international private company subsidiary still survives.

Monahan Dayman Adams was the advertising company that devised the 'Life. Be in it' campaign for the Victorian Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation. A principal of the company, Phillip Adams, had the formative ideas for the campaign and Alex Stitt brought them to life with his distinctive cartoon characters.

The campaign consisted largely of a series of TV commercials. The television campaign was backed up by print, and wall calendars were the largest print offshoot. These were sponsored by the life insurance company National Mutual for nineteen years.

The central character in the 'Life. Be in it' commercials became a cult figure. The obese, middle-aged man, Norm, was an anti-hero who needed to stop being a couch potato and become 'more active'. That Norm has become an Australian icon is evidenced by the inclusion of a gigantic, couch-bound Norm (dressed, of all things, in gold lame and sequins) in Sydney's Centenary of Federation parade in 2001. The term 'Norm' has been adopted into the Australian vernacular to describe, according to the Macquarie Dictionary Book of Slang, an average citizen viewed as a non-participant in any kind of physical exercise while addicted to watching spectator sports on television.

The memorable jingle that supported the 'Life. Be in it' campaign was written by Peter Best.

The 'Life. Be in it' campaign has been the subject of considerable academic scrutiny. Public health researchers point to the success of the 'Life. Be in it' program as a demonstration that broad social values can be changed by media campaigns.

A member of the staff of the 'Life. Be in it' company, Sara Jane Shelton, examined developments in Australian sport and recreation policy in a Masters thesis for the University of Melbourne, focusing her analysis around the 'Life. Be in it' program. Shelton argues that changes in sport and recreation policy serve as a barometer of many of the major changes and reversals in doctrines about the size of government ('big government' versus 'small government') and public sector management that have occurred in Australia from the 1970s onwards.

'Slip! Slop! Slap!' was another highly recognisable Australian public health campaign developed by Monahan Dayman Adams. Following the evident success of 'Life. Be in it', the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria approached Phillip Adams to devise a skin cancer prevention program, based on mounting evidence of a link between sunlight exposure and skin cancer. 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' was the result.

Launched in 1980, the 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' campaign identified three recommended precautions - slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat. The slogan and accompanying messages were featured in short TV and radio commercials. Again, these were the creation of Alex Stitt and they starred an animated seagull called Sid.

As with the 'Life. Be in it' campaign, the 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' commercials were generally aired free of charge during community service announcement time. During the 1980s the 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' campaign was adopted by each of the state cancer councils in Australia. Over a seven year period, 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' became not only a national health message but a part of everyday Australian language. Many years on it is still identified by all generations as being one of the key messages about protecting yourself from skin cancer.

In 2002 graphic designer Alex Stitt and his former business partner Bruce Weatherhead were honoured by the Australian Graphic Design Association by being elevated to the AGDA Paperpoint Hall of Fame.

References:

Eastley, Kylie, & Goodwin, Vanessa, Tasmanian crime prevention and community safety directory, June 1998
www.police.tas.gov.au/CPC/CrimPrev.htm

Life. Be in it.
www.lifebeinit.org/norm.html

Macquarie Dictionary Book of Slang
www.macquariedictionary.com.au/p/dictionary/slang-n.html

Robinson, Max, 'Bruce Weatherhead and Alex Stitt - Weatherhead and Stitt 1964-1973', AGDA Paperpoint Hall of Fame, Australian Graphic Design Association, 2002.

Shelton, Sara Jane, 'Life. Be in it' TM: From incrementalism to sharp policy reversals, Thesis submitted as partial fulfilment of Master of Arts degree in the Centre for Public Policy, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne, May 1999 (copy on file, Powerhouse Museum).

Sinclair, C., Borland, R., Davidson, M., & Noy, S., From 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' to Sunsmart: a profile of a health education campaign, Cancer Forum, 18(3), November 1994, 183-187.

Stitt, Alex, & Stitt, Paddy, Interviewed by Powerhouse Museum curator Megan Hicks and researcher Claire Hooker, 21 June 2001 (transcript of conversation notes on file, Powerhouse Museum).

Summary

Object No.

2003/81/3

Object Statement

Animation cel, original artwork, featuring 'Norm' from the 'Life. Be in it' campaigns, acetate / paper / cardboard, drawn by Alexander Stitt, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia, 1993-1994

Physical Description

An animation cel rendered in coloured paint on a transparent acetate sheet, and mounted on white cardboard. In the cel the character of 'Norm' has been drawn seated and gesturing with his left hand.

Marks

Written on the acetate sheet in black pen is 'Teeth / Tongue' and 'A32'. The cardboard mount has a paper label attached to the lower left corner on which is typewritten in grey 'Alex Stitt / "Norm" / Animation cell / $150'.

Dimensions

Height

340 mm

Width

400 mm

Production

Notes

An original artwork of 'Norm' created by the artist Alexander Stitt. The date 1993-1994 is based on the recollection of Stitt.

History

Notes

This object is from Alexander Stitt's personal archive. Stitt donated this collection to the Powerhouse Museum in 2001 after two Powerhouse curators met with him to discuss 'Life Be. in it' campaign.

The cel must have been on sale at one stage as the cardboard mount has a paper label attached to the lower left corner on which is typewritten 'Alex Stitt "Norm" Animation cell $150.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Alexander and Paddy Stitt, 2003

Acquisition Date

12 May 2003

Cite this Object

Harvard

Animation cel of 'Norm' from the 'Life. Be in it' campaign 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 September 2020, <https://ma.as/12209>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/12209 |title=Animation cel of 'Norm' from the 'Life. Be in it' campaign |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.