Stay Informed
with these

Agri Marketing Update
e-newsletter sent each Monday and Thursday
Agri Marketing
Text Alerts

Big news as it breaks
@AgriMarketing on Twitter
Farm Show Guide
Marketing Services Guide

National Agri-Marketing Association
NAMA Website
Upcoming Events
Agri-Marketing Conf
Best of NAMA 2022

Breaking through radio clutter may baffle some agrimarketers, but not those at DowAgroSciences and Novartis Crop Protection. Both claimed top honors in the 2000 Best of NAMA. What follows are descriptions of these winners' strategies.

Best of NAMA Winner Twinkles With Absurd Humor

The night sky certainly won't offer many secrets to the success of radio advertising, but reaching for the stars seems to have worked for Novartis Crop Protection's NorthStar advertising campaign. Playing off the legendary romance offered by constellations on a clear evening, Novartis and Martin/Williams Advertising teamed up to create a shining example of effective radio that was named the 2000 Best of NAMA top single radio spot.

The 60-second spot was part of Novartis' campaign to introduce to farmers their new NorthStar postemergence corn herbicide. The spot is titled "Star Gazers."

Woman: (Dreamily) The sky is so clear tonight. The stars are so bright.

Man: See that constellation?

Woman: It's the Little Dipper.

Man: Right. And that bright star - right there - is the North Star. You know what it reminds me of?

Woman: What?

Man: It reminds me of ... outstanding broadleaf and grass control.

Woman: (As if she's just found her soul mate). Really?

Man: Mm-hmm. When I think of the North Star, I think of how well new NorthStar corn herbicide works in the northern corn belt on lambsquarters, velvetleaf, waterhemp, cocklebur ...

Woman: Oh, yes! Not to mention ragweeds, Canadian thistle, a total of 38 broadleaf weeds and grasses.

Man: That's amazing. We both see the same thing. Do you see anything in the stars about ... us?

Woman: No, but I do have something very important to tell you.

Man: (Hopefully) Yes?

Woman: Always read and follow label instructions before buying or using NorthStar.

Man: You always know just what to say.

Announcer: Introducing NorthStar. Broadleaf weeds and more.

"We wanted to do something fun and chose to use humor so the spots could cut through all of the radio advertising clutter," says Kim Dawson, communications manager for the Greensboro, N.C.-based Novartis. "We find radio works well when you are advertising postemergence herbicides, because you can 'get in the tractor cab with the farmer' and gain some brand recognition for your product."

The radio spot was just one small segment of Novartis' launch of the NorthStar brand into the marketplace following full product registration in late 1998. The campaign also included print advertising that was designed to draw attention to the NorthStar name and also played on the constellation theme. For example, print ads had a picture of an "observatory" that looked like a silo with a telescope so farmers could presumably focus on the stars.

"Growers look to new products like NorthStar to gain an edge, and name recognition is very important," stresses Lee Schmidt, the writer at Martin/Williams in Minneapolis who put together the award-winning radio spot.

To make NorthStar stick with growers, Schmidt focused on the unexpected. "Those are ideas that work," he says. "Humor and drama are good tools to use in radio because it is an entertainment medium. It's kind of funny and absurd that the love of a herbicide brings this couple together."

"This was an out-of-the-box spot, not a typical farm spot," Dawson agrees. "But it worked so well that we stuck with the theme and same voices in subsequent radio spots."

Novartis chose not to do any measurement of the effectiveness of the radio ads, although Dawson says the company did sell out of NorthStar the first year, which was the objective. "We did not do any pre- or post-awareness," she says. "The spot went from us, the client, to casting without any testing, and has proven to be very successful."

If audience reaction at the Best of NAMA awards presentation is any indication of the ad's success, the spot was most likely well received by growers.

"The NorthStar spot is a relatively quiet spot. The 'whisper' technique works as well as a spot that grabs the listener by the lapels. It has real pulling power," says Schmidt. "The secret to any good spot is for agency writers to work closely with their client to define what needs to be communicated and then work together to find the most effective way to reach the audience." AM

Winning Radio Series Relies on Cows For Humor

Cows may not headline at your local nightclub, but bovine antics make for great radio advertising. At least that's what Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences found with their two-spot radio series touting the benefits of Tordon 22K herbicide in controlling musk thistle in pastures.

The two spots, which were chosen the top radio series during Best of NAMA competition this year, are titled, "We Demand to See the Chef" and "Your Table is Ready." The script for the chef spot below can be heard at

Maitre di: (Pretentious/male/slightly hushed) Francois, the Angus table is demanding to see the chef.

Francois: Zey want to see me?

SFX: (Low of cattle/disgruntled)

Maitre dí: (Pretentious/male/slightly hushed/concerned) They claim to have found musk thistle in their pasture pate.

SFX: (Low of cattle/disgruntled)

Head Chef: (Agitated/male/French accent) Musk thistle in my pate? Impossible! How could this happen?

Announcer: (Down-to-earth/friendly/male) It's not easy preparin' pasture for cattle. They can be quite particular about what ends up on their plate. And musk thistle is not what they're lookin' for.

SFX: (Low of cattle/disgruntled)

Announcer: (Down-to-earth/friendly/male) And with wet weather, musk thistle will show up just where you don't want it. So apply Tordon 22K herbicide this fall. Then, come spring, your work's done. But Tordon is still working. Takin' care of musk thistle. So your cattle get the pasture they ordered. Just pasture. Thanks to Tordon.

Maitre di: (male/gracious air/growing concern) I can assure you, this will never happen again. Please wait ...

Announcer: (Friendly/air of caution/male) 'Cause even regular customers will head for the door when they see musk thistle.

Head Chef: (Angry/male/French accent) Musk thistle in my pasture, what will become of me?

Announcer: (Down-to-earth/friendly/male) So it's Tordon this fall, or things could get ugly come spring.

SFX: (Low of cattle/agitated/clatter of hooves/smashing of plates)

Announcer: (Matter-of-fact attitude/faster) Tordon 22K is a federally Restricted Use pesticide. Always follow label directions.

"Placing Tordon in an upscale setting like a nice restaurant reinforces the key benefit that cattle will find a clean pasture desirable," says Margie Graber, account executive at Bader Rutter & Associates, Brookfield, Wisc., who coordinated the effort. "We chose characters for the spots that producers could identify with.

This is not the first time the agency has wrapped humor around Tordon for effect. Two previous spots had cows on strike due to poor pasture conditions and cows skywriting to tell producers to treat pastures with Tordon.

"The humor was well received, so we decided to take that approach again," she explains. "Radio works well because Tordon 22K is a mature brand with high awareness."

Dow AgroSciences product communications manager Jane MacMillan agrees humor gets the point across effectively. "Cows are particular about what they eat," she says. "The novelty of the radio ads is what gets producer attention. Then we can stress the financial and aesthetic benefits of using Tordon 22K and having clean pastures."

Paramount to successful advertising, says MacMillan, is to use the right media and the right timing. "You can have a great ad, but if you donít use it in the right market at the right time, it doesn't work. We timed the ads to when producers think about buying Tordon 22K."

"Radio advertising was a cost effective way to reach and reinforce the Tordon message to cow-calf ranchers in specific markets," says Loren Henry, associate media director at the agency.

Although no formal measurement was done, Graber says feedback from the field was positive. "The best thing to do when deciding how to use radio is to look at your brand personality." she says. "That reveals the best approach." AM


Barb Baylor Anderson is a freelance writer from Edwardsville, Ill., who covers a wide variety of ag issues.

Search News & Articles

Proudly associated with:
SIIA AM&P Canadian Agri-food Marketers Alliance National Agri-Marketing Association
Agricultural Relations Council National Association of Farm Broadcasters Agricultural Communicators Network Livestock Publications Council
All content © 2023, Henderson Communications LLC. | User Agreement