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Best of NAMA 2023

Any conversation about "the birds and the bees," especially with youngsters, raises emotions of angst, trepidation, confusion - even humor once in a while.

Imagine a well-mannered, strong Angus-bred cow explaining the particulars of this topic to a timid heifer. Or a tenured, prize-winning Angus bull doing so while holding back a randy, eager first-time male.

Granted, it's a picture that is hard to visualize. Yet, when you hear it, it becomes as full-color and as real as a Walt Disney production. Listeners' responses are just as real.

That's the effect the American Angus Association, St. Joseph, Mo., has achieved with its award-winning radio spots, Bull Conversations and Cow Conversations. The 60-second spots won the Region II Best of NAMA Best of Show award and placed first in radio series and first in single radio spots at the recent Best of NAMA awards in San Diego.


An example of one of the series of print ads in the American Angus Association's award-winning Black Hide campaign.
It all started during a long-ago discussion about the importance of the Black Hide print campaign, now in its third year. Radio, not being a visual medium, however, doesn't lend itself to the Black Hide treatment. Yet, a straightforward mandate from the American Angus Association to agency NKH&W Inc., Kansas City, Mo. - sell more Angus bulls and females - led the charge.

"We worked with several ideas that strengthened the brand while building a sales message," says Carl Hertel, senior copywriter at NKH&W. "We finally treaded lightly on a conversation related to sex, such as breeding, the birds and the bees and so on. This evolved into the dating aspect featured in the ads, where we arranged to have a neophyte bull talking with the old, experienced bull and the timid, young heifer seeking advice from an 'experienced' cow.

"In the end, we used human emotions to relate to the situation and let the cattle talk about those emotions," Hertel says. "That gave us the opportunity to let the bulls speak of the good cow traits and the cows pump up the bull traits. The spots turned out better with the cattle talking about themselves than a voiceover would have. We were able to create a human dating, or even meat market, if you will, line of thinking."

In a unique twist of fate, even the talent mirrored the characters in Cow Conversations. The actress who played the older cow and the one who read as the younger cow soon realized they were practically typecast in their roles. The younger voice was just that - one rather new to the industry. Before the recording and editing sessions were completed, the more experienced actress was coaching the younger one on the ups and downs of acting and voicing as a career. When the sessions ended, a new mentorship was formed.

This approach sat well with the American Angus Association's public relations committee members, who, along with Susan Rhode, director of communications and public relations, oversee marketing communications activities.

Jot Hartley, committee chair and attorney and Angus breeder from Vinita, Okla., says the first rendition of the ads hit the target.

"When the committee first heard the spots, our initial reaction probably showed a bit of surprise, combined with admiration for their attention-grabbing content," Hartley says. "They're edgier than advertising we've traditionally done, yet they allow listeners to focus on our message. The ads accomplish the goals we set and further instill the 'black' of the Angus brand in listeners' minds."


As a departure from "normal" breed association advertising, Bull Conversations and Cow Conversations did not just happen overnight. It began with joint challenges between the client and agency. First, the agency team understood the mandate, yet battled t„e branding aspect of the ads. Secondly, Angus PR committee members' mandate was markedly simple - sell. It was then that the agency's Creative Blueprint component of its proprietary Strategic Planning Process came into play.

"The Angus Association is an amazing client because they push us and encourage us to take chances," Hertel says. "This allows us to have some fun, while stretching the creative processes we normally follow. By fully incorporating each component of our Creative Blueprint, we not only met the selling mandate, we were able to meet all the criteria of our branding goals.

"The committee realizes the attention-getting advance of being a little risqué, especially in this market segment," Hertel adds. "They're very positive and chose this concept over several, perhaps safer ones."

Hartley and Hertel agree that by mutually challenging each other to work toward the best possible concept, the final spots are proving to be winners in the marketplace.

"The truest form of advertising feedback we have is the growing amount of Angus genetics we provide to the beef industry," Hartley says. "According to the latest statistics, 57 percent of commercial beef producers said they had purchased Angus bulls for their herd. What's more, 68 percent of those respondents said Angus was the dominant genetic influence in their cowherds. As those numbers continue to rise, we know we're on the right track."

Sales are generated by giving points that resonate with the audience, Hertel adds. Bold, dramatic statements and the final pitches are achieved in an announcer-read tag at the end of the spots. In other words, the spots begin entertaining and end informatively. (See scripts in sidebars.)


While listeners can't see black instantly, informal feedback tells American Angus Association board members the ads are getting noticed. State Angus associations are requesting duplicates, field personnel are hearing positive feedback from breeders and a third version of the spots was developed to address specific opportunities for Angus genetics in the South. What's more, commercial breeders are responding to Angus seedstock providers with words of support.

Hartley says it's this kind of immediate feedback that tells him the Cow Conversation and Bull Conversation ads are supporting the American Angus Association branding message.

´´The joint campaigns and additional PR support are getting more Angus genetics into the U.S. cowherd," Hartley says. "That's beneficial to our association and, in addition, offers producers the opportunity for better genetics and greater profits and the beef consumer a better eating experience. That's what we're in business to provide." AM

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