Nothing New: Agriculture in Advertising
The past week or so has been a big week for agriculture in advertising - with two ads each generating quite a bit of talk.
First, the Canadian Wheat Board’s “Still on the Fence” ad, which used a 50s pin up ‘cowgirl’ image, started to get quite a bit of negative momentum. The Globe & Mail picked up the story on Jan. 30 (“Wheat Board Raises Ire with Sexy Cowgirl Ad”: http://bit.ly/Xpjb3s).
Then, the Dodge Ram Trucks’ “God Made a Farmer” commercial ran during the Superbowl. Pretty notable given that Superbowl ads are famous for getting the most eyes - and requiring the most ambitious budgets. (See the ad here: http://bit.ly/Wxrv3z) Naturally this lengthy, high production ad has garnered lots of chatter too - lots of opinions, lots of mixed reviews.
To me, there are a few interesting things about these ads and the attention they’ve gained.
First off, they are both taking a pretty old-fashioned approach. The image of farmers they portray is nostalgic. It’s ironic that the CWB representative told the Globe they are trying to prove they are “innovative” - because a 1950s pin up girl image seems pretty old school to me. Just because it might stand out in a farming publication does not make it innovative. In fact, it seems contrary to the message that other ag organizations and farming publications are trying to express, which is that farmers are savvy, forward-thinking businesspeople. Note: people, not just men.
Meanwhile, the Ram ad is based around the noble, nostalgic farming stereotype. Again, rather than portraying farmers as businesspeople (ahem *people*) and the role they play in important aspects of society like, say, the economy, it reinforces this notion that farming is done out of the goodness of one’s heart. Because farmers have somehow been invested, through God, with a sense of purpose and self-sacrifice.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s nice to see an ode to farmers and all that they do. But it underscores a theme I see frequently: while urban people try to learn more about food and where food comes from, it is hard for them to move beyond the concept of a hard-working (but small-thinking) farmer who graciously does his duty to make food, and instead understand how agriculture works, and what it means to run a farming operation profitably and sustainably.
Besides the throw-back qualities to these advertisements, the ads and the response to them also underscore increasing mainstream interest in the ag industry. The Dodge Ram isn’t farm equipment - it’s a truck. Which says to me that not only did Dodge think they’d be reaching farmers with this ad - they also thought that the image of a farmer is one that their audience (even the non-farmers) would relate to. That the stereotypical farmer qualities would be considered admirable - something their customers would want to be associated with.
Meanwhile the CWB ad got a lot of attention in the mainstream press. Why? there are tons of bad ads out every single day. Do most Globe readers even know what the CWB is or what its pool offerings are about? I think the mainstream media attention may signify more of a general interest and curiosity turned towards agriculture. The general public is trying to take notice.