THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
PFIZER AND THE BEEF INFORMATION CENTRE: FARM-TO-FORK PARTNERS
Den Gardner, Contributing Editor
I worked in the PR business for a major agricultural account for 12 years. So what, huh? Well, as I began researching this month's column on a collaboration of Pfizer Animal Health, the Beef Information Centre (B.I.C.), and Fleishman-Hillard-Canada (FH), I was trying to remember when I was given $50,000 to do a media tour with instructions not to mention the client during the media visits. I couldn't recall that ever happening.
That description sounds a little simpler than it really is, but.... This is one of those stories of intrigue, one that brings out the animal instincts of its characters. Or, it's just another day at the office developing an excellent public relations program between one agency and two of its clients.
FROM THE BEGINNING
First, some clarity. FH has a client, Pfizer Animal Health, whose challenge was to build on three key strategies behind the marketing of Dectomax Pour-On in Canada. The first of these strategies was to build brand awareness of the functional benefits of the product, particularly its long-action claims. The second strategy was to demonstrate economic benefits of the product to producers. FH was challenged to support the third strategy, to come up with a program that would tie emotional benefits to the product by supporting the beef industry.
FH proposed a partnership with the B.I.C. by which product dollars would support a consumer media tour promoting beef. B.I.C. and its national producer board agreed to the idea. During a couple of planning meetings, B.I.C's national consumer communications manager, Liz Ormerod, decided to extend the tour by using FH services.
The consumer media tour included nine Canadian cities. It was structured with key positioning messages including 1) beef has staying power to give peak performance to athletes as well as consumers; and 2) beef fits active healthy lifestyles because it's convenient, versatile and fast to prepare. Yet, the name Pfizer isn't mentioned anywhere.
"The idea was to promote beef to consumers to ensure the long term viability for the cattle industry," says Michael Goldberg, senior marketing manager, cattle, for Pfizer Animal Health. "We didn't want to be associated with the tour. We just wanted to support it."
Since February, the tour results have been communicated to Pfizer Animal Health customers in a seven-minute video at numerous producer trade shows and through small group presentations conducted by company territory managers after the media tour ended. And the early results have been very positive.
Meanwhile, B.I.C. national producer communications manager, Joan Perrin says this program was unique in other ways as well. "The B.I.C. had never partnered with a company in this way before," she says. "What Pfizer wanted to do met our mandate for increasing consumer demand for beef."
Ormerod adds, "When we decided to take Fleishman-Hillard on as our PR agency, we were able to use Pfizer's dollars and added some of the producer check-off dollars to create a much more impactful campaign than originally anticipated."
And in the middle of all this was Karen Davidson, senior vice president, agribusiness communications, at FH. "If you look at the hot buttons of cattle producers, driving consumer demand for beef is near the top," Davidson says. "We sat down with Pfizer and recommended a program to pledge dollars from fall Dectomax 1999 sales to a very immediate consumer media relations campaign."
Davidson called herself "the umbrella communicator" to both B.I.C. and Pfizer folks. "I recognized that for this to work I had to be sensitive to that communications role--reporting to both parties.
"From an agency point of view, representing two clients heightens the challenges to satisfy the goals of both. After we met with the B.I.C. to discuss the Pfizer program, they became a client and we added the Quebec portion of the media tour. So, there were separate reporting roles for different parts of the tour. It was more like one on one with our agency and Pfizer; then one on one with our agency and the B.I.C."
STAYING POWER OF BEEF
There may have been no mention of Pfizer or the three-year-old Dectomax Pour-On on the tour, but there was a direct tie into the media tour's slogan "The Staying Power of Beef." That phrase, by design, was similar to the Pfizer product tag line "The staying power of Dectomax Pour-On."
The "Staying Power of Beef" media tour was conducted in late October into early January. It visited large consumer markets such as Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Sherbooke and Ottawa. It was predominantly a broadcast television media tour, although hits were obtained on radio and print as well.
In English-speaking areas, the spokesperson was Susie Langley, a dietitian to Olympic athletes, NHL players and others in Canada. "She counsels people on eating properly to maximize their performance," Ormerod says. "It was a perfect tie-in for our messages. Obviously, the protein, iron and zinc content of beef makes it an ideal food for both high-performance athletes and today's busy families."
In French-speaking areas, Nathalie Lambert, former Olympic speed skater, was used. "Lambert spoke about her iron deficiency when training for the Olympics," Ormerod continues. "She was big on beef in the diet to provide iron and zinc protein."
In all, the media tour reached more than 3.6 million people. Ormerod says measuring the success of the program is a little "difficult to pinpoint to any particular program. All of our areas--retail, food service, merchandising and nutrition--work together. We do research quarterly to determine sales trends and they try to determine parameters on why it changed."
Goldberg says the tour surpassed his expectations. "The obvious measurement is sales and market share," he says. "This was a unique partnership that has helped to associate our product with three basic values of cattle producers--pride in their operations, commitment to improving quality of beef, and the long-term viability of the industry."
"Our fortunes rise and fall with those of cattle producers. Our primary motive is showing producers we provide added value to their operations with our products and that we have a direct stake in their success. We consider the numbers reached in the tour phenomenal."
During the tour, Pfizer conducted research showing that awareness of the B.I.C. as an agency designed to promote beef was in the range of 85 to 95 percent. "That was a key point for us to continue the partnership and our sponsorship," Goldberg says. "But what those messages will be this year is a mandate from the B.I.C. and the cattlemen's association. It's up to them to decide what message they want to get out to consumers."
Ormerod adds, "We were delighted to work with Pfizer and we're interested in partnering with them again. This is a unique partnership between the end product, beef and a pharmaceutical company, which provides an input product to the beef chain. This truly recognizes everyone's responsibility in the food chain. We are delighted with the concept and have agreed that this media tour is exclusively theirs."
The next steps for Davidson is a meeting of the minds with both her clients. Except for the announcement of the program last summer, there has been no face-to-face get-together by the folks from B.I.C. and Pfizer Animal Health.
"The project was brokered by Fleishman-Hillard and the whole intent was a high-profile, high-impact consumer media event," Davidson concludes. "The key to success for Pfizer is having a playback opportunity to its audience of cattle producers. The video is a way for us to create another PR product to promote what the client is doing in the industry." AM
Den Gardner owns Gardner & Gardner Communications, New Prague, Minn.