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20 YEARS OF CHANGE
It has been 20 years since the first Best of CAMA was hosted in Calgary, Alberta. This year, the show, touted as the "Academy Awards of Canadian Agrimarketing," returned to Calgary to celebrate excellence in agricultural communications. But a lot has changed in the 20 years since the first Best of CAMA, or has it?

The Milk Producers of Alberta, Milk - the Moo that Won the West. "Best in Show winner - 1989" Photo courtesy of Hayhurst Communications Alberta.
Fashioned after the Best of NAMA awards, the first Best of CAMA (Canadian Agri-Marketing Association) was organized by the Calgary chapter to celebrate the efforts of the Canadian agrimarketing industry. That first show was very different from the ones hosted in recent years, but the reason for gathering has remained the same. CAMA has always created an environment in which professionals in the agricultural industry can network and socialize, and the Best of CAMA event is a perfect example. "This is the most important night of the year," says J. David Corry of FilmFarm. "You have one night when everyone is there and can network with the whole of the industry."

Putting on a show of this size is no small feat. "We receive tremendous support from the industry, which is what has allowed us to continue for as long as we have," says Brenda Trask of Trask & Associates. "Not only do they help us with sponsorship of the event, but also the number of entries we receive and the donations of time and services to help with judging and putting the show together are outstanding."

THE EVOLUTION

Roundup Ads - Grasshopper and Pterodactyl. "Best in Show in - Best of Agricultural Advertising 1992." Photos courtesy of Kazoo Advertising (formerly Stanton & Sylvester Ltd.).
Over the years the event has grown and evolved. "Today we have far more categories than when we first started," says Trask. "There are categories for French language ads, not to mention the numerous Web-based categories." When the show first began in 1984, there were three classes of Best in Show winners; since then a fourth category, in Public Relations, has been added to reflect the shifts in the industry. Creating a positive image of agriculture for the public has become a priority in the ag industry. Whether it's a need to educate the public on animal welfare or rebuild a corporate image after a merger, keeping a positive public profile is top of mind for agrimarketers.

Technologies such as the World Wide Web, CD-ROM and e-mail have not only created new categories for judging but also have changed the way business is done. "In the past it could take up to a month to create a campaign. Now we can create a graphic on the computer, e-mail it to the client and have a response within minutes. We essentially have instant communications," says Rod Delahey of Heyday Communications. "It used to be if a client told you they wanted an ad for next week, you told them they were crazy. Now, when hard pressed, we have created an ad and sent it to press in 24 hours."

Not only has the speed at which the industry works changed but also the message that is communicated. "There are more and more producers today who have a university or college education. The language we use and the messages we send must be much more sophisticated now," says Delahey. This sentiment is echoed by Lynn Hewitt, executive director of the Ontario Chapter of CAMA. "Today you have to stay ahead of the game. Farmers are very smart. They have more education, and most are up on current technologies like the Internet and e-mail."

In the past, the agrimarketing industry had to rely on agricultural publications as the main method of communication. Today, most producers have far more exposure to mainstream media and should essentially be treated as mainstream consumers. This means that agrimarketers must work that much harder to create a meaningful campaign to attract the attention of their target audience.


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