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Farm radio sales directors, station managers and agrimarketers attending the 2003 National Association of Farm Broadcasters Convention won't want to miss "New Realities Part II." A continuation of the May seminar, this meeting will feature the perspectives of several industry leaders such as Dave Knau, director of sales and marketing communications for Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.; Steve Rhea, president of Rhea & Kaiser Marketing Communications; as well as a return visit by Ted Haller, vice president, integrated media director for Osborn & Barr Communications.

The meeting, set for Wednesday, Nov. 12, will be another opportunity for farm broadcast industry members to learn more about the changing environment in agriculture business and how farm radio must react to these "new realities."

Dave Knau, director of sales and marketing communications for Pioneer Hi-Bred International inc.
Dave Knau says these changes should be no surprise to anyone in the industry. He explains that 30 years ago as a college student he was told that the number of farmers was decreasing and the amount of acreage was increasing. "This didn't sneak up on us. This train has been coming down the track for some time," Knau says.

Consolidation has also had a big impact on agriculture agencies. Steve Rhea says he has seen consolidation along all points in the agriculture chain. "We are now marketing to fewer farmers who make much bigger decisions," he explains.

With the new realities in agriculture, Knau says there is "an urgency to constantly redefine your business." One area that Knau says is critical for farm broadcast to reevaluate is measurability. "It's a chicken and egg thing - without measurement how do you justify the revenue?" Knau asks. "Everything is measured - that is the new reality."

Steve Rhea, president of Rhea & Kaiser Marketing Communications
Rhea sees this as critical to his agency as well. He says that agencies today are required to be much more accountable, and without measurement in farm radio, agencies can't justify the buys. "We are expected to deliver more information and be more reasonable and objective," Rhea explains.

Today's pricing structure and the quality of farm radio also affect these expectations. Rhea says his media director has traditionally looked at farm radio as a local medium, but that is also changing. "There has always been a premium charged for farm programming because of its localness," he says. "But with ad spending down, stations have been forced to dilute their localness and, in turn, we are not getting the same value for our money. It's really a tough cycle.

"Taking away the localization is cutting away at the core values of farm radio and marketers begin to mentally reprice the value of the medium when a station loses its local appeal," Rhea says.

These are hard truths to swallow for many radio stations, but Knau says the farm radio must be treated just like any other business. "Stations must reach out to profitable segments," he explains. "Increases in metro coverage are causing farm broadcast to struggle, but a business must move to profitable segments to stay alive."

In conclusion, Knau says farm radio should react more like a business in its long-term planning. He points out that Pioneer is already working on its 2005 campaigns and that businesses today demand thoughtful planning and analysis. "Today, you can't just walk in with the 'special of the day.' You have to think way ahead," Knau states.

Along the same line, he says broadcast shouldn't expect the same thing year after year from companies. "Each year we build from a zero base strategy due to changes in business," Knau says. "We don't plan to repeat anything just because we did it the year before."

The bottom line is times have changed. And although these industry members don't claim to have the answers to all of farm broadcast's problems, they will honestly discuss current issues and provide feedback and suggestions for all that are willing to listen. AM

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