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NORTHERN EXPOSURE
ST. LOUIS-BASED MARKETING AGENCY OSBORN & BARR COMMUNICATIONS IS SET TO TACKLE A DISTINCT SET OF AGRIMARKETING ISSUES . . . THIS TIME, NORTH OF THE BORDER.
Osborn & Barr Communications, one of North America's leading agricultural marketing agencies, with offices in St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., and Des Moines, now has locations in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and London, Ontario. The moves are part of a strategy to expand Osborn & Barr's presence in Canada and facilitate a cross-border exchange of information and expertise.

Osborn & Barr was formed in 1988 with Monsanto as its founding client. The agency now represents some of the world's leading agricultural brands. In fact, nearly 75 percent of its current business is concentrated in the agricultural sector, including clients such as John Deere, United Soybean Board, the Cattlemen's Beef Board/National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Board. "Our belief in really understanding marketing channels and the nature of working with retail networks such as John Deere and Monsanto have provided us with an opportunity to create a different style in how we deal with marketing communications," says Steve Barr, CEO and founding partner of Osborn & Barr.

The full-service agency focuses on business-to-business communications, channel communications, dealer network relations, and high-end, considered-purchase product segments. O&B has divisions in strategic marketing planning and brand management and provides a variety of print and broadcast media. The 15-year-old agency employs more than 120 professionals and has more than $80 million in capitalized annual billings.

Osborn & Barr Canada creates advertisements for two of its clients, John Deere and Monsanto, that have a distinctly Canadian look and feel.
Though the Canadian acquisition is relatively recent, Osborn & Barr has been working in Canada for more than three years. They started handling John Deere and John Deere Credit media in Canada and are currently responsible for most of the dealer programs for that company's campaigns. "We have actually been in Canada for several years working on behalf of John Deere," says Joe Osborn, president and the other founding partner of Osborn & Barr. "Over a year ago, Monsanto presented us with the opportunity to take on their Canadian account, full service."

As a result, Osborn & Barr now has two people in Winnipeg who manage the Monsanto account. This creates a vital link between the creative and production services that the agency provides to Monsanto in St. Louis and those in Winnipeg. "At the time of our expansion, we decided it was really time to analyze the opportunities in Canada, to look to leaders in agriculture like Monsanto and John Deere, and find out who the other key players are in Canadian agriculture," explains Osborn.

Peter Hohenadel was hired in October of 2003 to head the agency's Canadian operation. As executive vice president of Osborn & Barr Canada, he will be responsible for the leadership and development of the agency's Canadian business. Hohenadel, who has worked in communications and agriculture since 1978, brings a background rich in relationships and networking to the table. Previously, he was with Quarry Integrated Communications as vice president of integrated communications and agency lead for agricultural clients. The company feels he is the ideal candidate to expand what O&B can do for its clients across the border. "I think what I am bringing to Osborn & Barr Canada is not only my experience in the agency business but also my connections in agriculture," Hohenadel says. "This will ensure that we take advantage of every opportunity and open every door for our clients in terms of co-promotions or anything else that may happen based on what we know about the Canadian marketplace."

NEW TERRITORY

Monsanto was the beginning of O&B's move into Canada. Now with the addition of Hohenadel and Venture Communications' London office, Osborn & Barr has a representative base in both Western and Eastern Canada, bridging the gap between the vast agricultural landscape that is their northerly neighbor.

The move to acquire the Venture Communications' London office is the result of carefully planned strategy and research over the past year into what parameters were needed to be successful in Canada. Seeing the potential to purchase a communications office with core strength in agriculture, a staff with highly specialized knowledge and a solid reputation for service, Osborn & Barr began discussions with Venture. "The Venture-London client list is very complementary to Osborn & Barr's client list in Canada. In addition to our service office in Winnipeg, we feel we will provide significant opportunity for Canadian agricultural marketing," says Hohenadel.

In addition to providing a base for Osborn & Barr to expand its overall operation in Canada, the new London office will allow the agency to deal with clients on both the agricultural and ag-horticultural science sides. But before an aggressive expansion takes place, the agency's first priority is to maintain and build upon the services and products for existing Venture clients in Ontario.

It is principal to Osborn & Barr that the new offices remain a reflection of the country in which they are located. "We have staffed the Canadian operation entirely with Canadians," Barr says. "It is very important to us that we do that." They plan to support the Canadian offices from St. Louis and Kansas City with the hopes that the London office will grow and prosper independently. "The merger creates a really nice platform," notes Barr. "We are looking to learn as much from the Canadian agency as we hope to instruct them. There's a lot of expertise that Peter and the staff in Canada will bring to us in the U.S. and vice versa."

Hohenadel says the agricultural industry clients of the Venture-London office have been receptive to the change based on the added services and products Osborn & Barr brings. "Because of the expanded scope of what we can now offer, it is really exciting," he says. "Agriculture and life sciences is a global business, and now we have the opportunity to combine that with a made-in-Canada service, approach and product. It is a great hybrid." Osborn & Barr plans to combine the talents and skills established and grown in Kansas City and St. Louis with what the London office does best - understanding the Canadian marketplace in order to service clients when and where they need it.

The transition has, so far, been a smooth one. Significant time has been invested in integrating the Venture-London staff. There are currently six Canadian employees, with forecasts for increasing that capacity in the near future. Barr concludes, "We are very excited about our prospects in Canada, and we have had very good feedback so far - creating an opportunity for expanding Osborn & Barr's operation in Canada." With its move into Canadian territory, Osborn & Barr Communications stands to increase its profile on the North American agricultural scene, gain exposure to a broader range of agricultural marketing issues and bring a more global perspective to an already market-savvy group of people. AM

Heather Kaye is a staff writer at Issues Ink, a communications company based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that publishes several agriculture magazines, including Germination and Manure Matters.


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