Some of my best friends are dairy farmers. Okay, one is. Then there was that dodgy romp with a milker at her wedding. Country air brings out the worst in me.
Anyhow. My friend, the dairy farmer, rang me on the Monday to champion the multi-million dollar Yeo Valley ad from the UK.
Only a couple of days later she would ring in ever-exacerbating fury about Victoria’s new Devondale campaign:
Ten-odd years of friendship and we’ve never had any reason to argue. The spruiking of dairy apparently brings out our fightin' spirit.
In one corner we have my friend, the dairy farmer. She’s construing the Yeo Valley campaign as slick, as modern, as giving due honour to contemporary dairy farming. It’s everything she wants in an industry tout.
Everything, apparently, that the Devondale campaign isn’t.
Her claim is that the Devondale campaign mocks dairy farmers. Depicts them as hicks. Presents farming practices as retrograde. Portrays the industry as something to laugh at.
I’m in the other corner. Complete with a furrowed brow. To me, the Yeo Valley ad is what happens when anyone tries to look cool. It screams “geeks” getting makeovers on bad reality TV shows; politicians trying to be funny, cool. It’s awkward, it’s contrived and it’s the polar-opposite of hip.
I’m not going to champion the Devondale ads. In general I quite love the art of advertising, but an ad needs to be pretty bloody special for me to get excited about it. I might find the hillbilly farmer caricatures uninspired, but I certainly don’t see them as offensive.
While she and I are no longer discussing the ads for the sake of our friendship, our differing views nicely encapsulate some of the big challenges of advertising.
My friend, the dairy farmer, wants the dairy farmers to get their due, their dignity, their kudos. Yeo Valley does this apparently, Devondale doesn’t.
A line that she will never forgive me for, but hell, I’m rarely adverse to throwing caution to the wind: who bloody cares about the dairy farmers? I’m asking this, of course, from a marketing perspective, but in all seriousness: why on earth would Devondale spend money to make their farmers feel better about their labours?
When do companies ever put employee morale at the forefront of an external communications strategy?
Even the Yeo Valley ad isn’t really about the farmers, it’s about branding; it’s about achieving cut-through, about constructing a brand differential.
Both campaigns are about peddling cheese, hawking milk, trafficking in yoghurt, but that’s it. To expect them to do anything more is ridiculous.
As a left-leaning, city-dwelling dairy consumer, sure, I might like reassurance that the cows are treated well, but I couldn’t care less about the farmers.
I don’t care if they seem like interesting or fun people or whether they use the newest, shiniest milking machinery or if they wear the latest Driz-A-Bone tracksuits.
So long as their working conditions are decent then I just want my to eat my yoghurt in peace, thank you.
To look to advertising for professional validation is not only delusional, but fails to acknowledge the central objective of advertising: to sell stuff. Succeeding in anything else is just cream.