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Best of NAMA 2020

Editor's note: We invited the leaders of marketing communications agencies that specialize in the agricultural industry to share what's new in their shops.

by Roger Reierson, Chairman

At AdFarm, we exist to be a catalyst for the advancement of agriculture. We're totally focused on agriculture so we've been able to surround ourselves with the best resources and assets required to accomplish our goals. Talk with an AdFarmer and you'll discover a deep-rooted passion for agriculture and marketing l a combination of Agness and Adness.

Our commitment is to drive deeper which means providing clients with strategic insights for marketing communication. That's why we've increased AdFarm bench strength by establishing exclusive partnerships with organizations like the Pike Management Group and Street Smart Strategic Planning who work directly with producers across North America.

The definition of "agriculture" is broadening l now including areas like rural development and rural lifestyles. Energy and health are two exciting new frontiers in agriculture that bring a new set of communication challenges for companies and organizations. But AdFarm is ready to meet these challenges by providing clients with broader public relations experience and skills, greater interactive and direct capabilities, and branding expertise.

This is a time of tight budgets, doing more with less. We want to give our clients the most bang for their buck. AdFarm's agricultural media capabilities are among the best in the market, providing great value to clients. Our on-staff agronomist is always researching new trends and new findings so we can deliver greater value and fresh ideas to our customers.

One thing we're quite excited about is the recent acquisition of the agricultural consulting practice of Issues Ink, led by Robynne Anderson. This means AdFarm can connect with current and potential clients to investigate issues, gain insights and cultivate know-how.

What's the future for AdFarm? We are committed to continue developing new offerings and capabilities that will keep our clients and us in the vanguard of the changing agri-business world. Our 20-year vision
is to be the world's best, most respected agricultural marketing/communications firm. And we're working hard to achieve that goal.

by Greg Nickerson, Pres/COO

What we're finding in agriculture as well as in all BtoB marketplaces our clients serve is a unique combination of factors driving their current challenges and opportunities. Time pressures, advances in technology, tightened budgets and a proliferation of brands and messages are affecting change. We've adapted by scaling up our services.

First, our Brand Asset Management department uses its proven branding model to help clients address their growing branding challenges. For instance, many of our clients find themselves at the mercy of a large, sometimes unwieldy portfolio of brands. They want objective counsel on how these brands should live together. What are all the brands' roles and relationships? Our model, which encourages active client participation, expertly guides them.

Second, most clients recognize brands as valuable assets and seek to protect investments they make in building them. Brand messages and brand promises become vulnerable as they move from inside the organization to outside via sales force, channel partners and finally, customers. We are unique in that we not only offer world-class branding strategy, but also the scalability (experience, people and processes) to provide clients the counsel and tactical implementation to effectively preserve the brand's integrity and protect the client's investment.

Finally, we've all heard the statistics about the number of messages our clients' customers are bombarded with every day. The trick is to not add to the clutter, but break through it. Clients are keenly aware of this challenge and increasingly insist on innovative thinking and bold ideas to stand out from the pack. Nowhere is this more true than in interactive.

Little over a year ago we made a decision to upgrade our digital competencies, and that's now paying off in more assignments in Web site design, digital asset management, search engine marketing and emerging media

by Dean Broadhead, President

We have invested heavily over the past year in three areas: consumer public relations, creative services and interactive. And that's as much a function of agency growth as it is a response to changing market needs.

Looking forward, that trend will continue as we see growth in what we call the "rural business" category, which includes everything from lifestyle marketing to renewable energy investment to consumer acceptance of ethanol. In many ways we're marketing to rural America as much as we are helping rural business project out.

The addition of Tom DiBacco to lead our consumer public relations staff is a great example. Tom spent 20 years as a reporter and producer for ABC News and CNN in Washington, D.C., before coming aboard to help us promote broader consumer acceptance of products such as ethanol. Consumer acceptance of ethanol is already quite high in rural America. Our broader mission is to move the needle in the Northeast, Southeast and West. Similarly, we're doing a lot more in food safety in the west coast crop markets, and the beef and dairy industries, where industry and consumer are not far removed from one another.

Production agriculture is still where all of these discussions begin. Like the consumer market, we're adapting how we talk to producers because they're listening differently. That makes the upfront process of identifying strategies and ideas that inspire the true customer all the more important to delivering results. That just takes experience. We don't have a trademarked approach to branding, but we do have a process driven by people that have a great depth of experience within our focus. And in the next year, we will continue to add senior bench strength as the market continues to require on-the-fly thinking and adaptation.

by Marcy Tessmann, Account Group Supervisor

For Charleston|Orwig, creating demand for our clients by first employing the discipline of building a sound, succinct strategy has never been more important than now. Once this base is established, developing tactical approaches that make a measurable difference for our clients flows easily.

Our interactive team has recently received national recognition, ranking as one of the top small interactive agencies by Forrester Research. From podcasts to animated messages to full Web site development, we continue to place the greatest emphasis on the customer so that navigation, speed and organization are the greatest priority.

2007 has brought about growth opportunities in the tried and true communications areas of branding and public relations. As is true with many industries, our agricultural clients quite often benefit from tactical approaches that target audiences through a variety of means. Brand strategy and development continues to prove important for our clients. Industry innovations and new product introductions have precipitated this trend. Public relations has always been a strong and important part of our expertise, and as time passes it has become a much more prominent element in our clients' view of their roles in communicating with the marketplace.

To help our clients understand these processes and thinking, we have employed a customizable workshop where we take key individuals through a day-long session of critical thinking, branding, creative approach and efficient project management.

Over the last several years we have made continual investments in our systems and our latest addition is a user-friendly site that allows our clients a secure window to view all projects and document everyone's comments, all online. This virtual file system is the next generation in providing clients timely access to working files 24/7 from anywhere an Internet connection is available.

Strategy that differentiates and innovative tactics produce results, and continue to be our cornerstone. It's what moves our clients' businesses forward in efficient, effective ways and get's us excited about marketing every day.

by Mark Monroe, Sr. Vice President

How many corn growers have visited YouTube? Which blogs matter and which don't? Is the technology or the content more important?

These and many more questions about the furiously evolving field of e-communications are on the minds of our clients and Gibbs & Soell (G&S) managers are working hard to sort out the most effective and appropriate uses of new and emerging media in agricultural marketing.

G&S has focused broadband applications on broadband audiences, utilizing interactive modules, webinars, blogs, podcasts, push e-mail and other applications to reach segmented end-users, retailers, applicators, influencers, media, and clients' sales forces. CDs and USB drives are also effective for delivering content.

Agriculture differs from most industries in its customers' use of technology. There's a segment of growers who have high-speed connections and are using the Internet and mobile devices to the fullest. But they appear to be a minority. The challenge for communicators is to engage this high-tech group while also finding the appropriate media mix for other growers.

With many growers placing a premium on face-to-face communication, we can use e-communications to better inform and provide tools for those who speak to them face-to-face.

Meanwhile, to sharpen content for both electronic and traditional media, G&S clients are making extensive use of IPower, a proven, dynamic process for creating and prioritizing concise, credible and audience-relevant messages. The G&S IPower process pulls together business objectives and strategies, audience analysis, brainstorming and consensus-building to create clear "Message Maps" that give communications efforts greater consistency and impact. IPower feeds into any medium of content delivery, from speeches and media interviews to ads, blogs or podcasts.

Technology can be great for gaining attention and creating a richer, interactive experience for targeted audiences. When it comes to content, though, we still have to put those audiences' needs and interests first if we want the communications to make a difference.

by Mark Perrin, President

Even in a time of considerable change, what's most remarkable about McCormick Company are that many of the things remain unchanged most notably, the solid foundation McCormick has built with its core competencies in sales and marketing communications.

McCormick offers clients a deep understanding of agriculture, strong strategic skills and the highest quality of creative, public relations and account services. To that core, McCormick has strengthened the agency's interactive and international media relations capabilities. The latter through a strategic partnership with Marston Webb International in 2006 to provide media placement and public relations services for clients on a seamless, worldwide basis.

We are a full-service agency for advertising, media planning/buying, branding, PR, direct and interactive. A large part of what we do is help drive market segmentation for our clients, then seek out and leverage sales growth opportunities within those segments. We believe success is a result of focusing on generating sales growth for our clients. It also helps that we are located where our clients' customers are located in major agricultural areas in the U.S. and Canada 7#151; with direct access to their end-users.

On many occasions, McCormick has played an integral role in bringing together industry leaders and driven the process to have frank discussions on challenging issues. These broad issues are ones that can potentially impact an entire industry such as environmental regulations, transportation, labor, etc. The ability to build strong, dynamic coalitions within leadership circles is one of the strengths that sets McCormick apart from other agencies.

Contrary to what many think is "new" in integrated marketing communications, McCormick has always known how to tie it all together. It's in our DNA to do whatever it takes to accomplish our client's marketing goals whether it's developing viral firestorms or events, one-on-one marketing activities or scripting a sales organization. Finding the nooks and crannies of marketing opportunity is our passion.

Our agency marked its 80th anniversary during the past year and our mission remains unchanged work hard, work smart to deliver the highest quality of service to our clients.

by Peter Kovac, President

The commitment to help clients achieve success has to be embedded in an agency's culture. Twenty-six years ago, Nicholson Kovac, Inc. created a unique culture, based on the driving principles of ROI marketing. We call this way of thinking, "Relevant IngenuitySM." It's the very heart of our culture, and it's what we deliver to a broad base of clients every day.

Delivering Relevant Ingenuity for our clients is the result of our Strategic Planning Process. This unique, proprietary process is truly the marriage of both the science and the art of marketing. The results of our process are solutions via a true Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Program complete with metrics.

Nicholson Kovac's planning discipline is grounded in marketplace facts. To begin the strategic process a 360 degree review of the marketplace, including competitors, trends opportunities, etc., is conducted using over 150 market information services. Proprietary research is then conducted, if necessary, to validate findings or dig deeper.

We believe a smart relevant plan is just the first step in adding value. It must be brought to life with a cost effective ingenious creative message important in all the elements of an efficient IMC plan, every component, from interactive to public relations to collateral centered on one compelling brand position.

Our culture of planning is our difference. Without it, we would be just another marketing communications agency. Our clients tell us that our strategic approach to creating high return-on-investment, integrated marketing communications programs is the key reason they elected to entrust their precious marketing dollars to Nicholson Kovac. We believe the finest definition of our value is how many of our clients have not just grown with us, but who have also awarded us additional assignments based on the performance of our planning process.

by Steve Kunkel, VP, Director of Client Services

Osborn & Barr, founded in 1988 with four employees and a single account, today has a staff of more than 140 professionals. We have grown to become the largest agricultural- and rural-focused marketing communications agency in North America, with U.S. Offices in St. Louis, Kansas City, Des Moines and Washington, D.C.; plus Canadian offices in Winnipeg,
Manitoba and Guelph, ON.

Osborn & Barr is a full-service agency, so our clients expect full collaboration on their projects. Media, interactive, creative and public relations are created with one voice and monitored by a team that is driven by consistency of message as the smartest way to drive maximum results.

Since we opened our doors for business, our work has been driven by a deep respect for agriculture and the rural lifestyle, and a genuine desire to help our clients succeed. Those values keep us honest in a business that's sometimes known for being deceptive and self-serving.

In fact, our clients say that's the best part of working with us. They know when we create communications; we're not thinking about what will look best in our agency portfolio. We're thinking about what will create results for their business.

With that in mind, "We create belief," is much more than a clever tagline on our business cards. It's a lofty goal that drives everything we do. Because, when your customers believe in your brand, the results speak for themselves. And we're talking about real, measurable business results.

While a good campaign can boost your sales numbers for the year, we think it's just as important for that same campaign to build loyalty and prestige for your brand. These two variables can be the difference between short-term gains and sustainable growth.

by Steve Rhea, President

Rhea & Kaiser (R&K) is a full service, integrated marketing communications agency servicing the agricultural marketplace. We specialize in brand-building and integrated communications with an eye on the present and a view on the future.

Utilizing "Ideas That Connect," R&K connects a personality to a brand and client communications together, while leveraging a client's investment through integrated communications channels.

R&K is continuing to pursue a broader role in the agricultural marketplace with a service strategy that goes beyond the borders of the U.S.

For clients who seek our help to expand their domestic sales using international strategies, R&K has continued to broaden our reach and understanding of international audiences enabling us to develop seamless global integrated marketing communications messages.

One strategy to accomplish this objective began in early 2006 when we joined Worldwide Partners, Inc. (WPI), the largest global network of independent marketing communications agencies in the world.

R&K is presently working with WPI and other global partner agencies in China, Japan, England and Italy implementing strategies for three clients. To nurture these global agency partnerships, R&K participates in international agency conferences such as the World Marketing Summit meeting held this past November in Beijing and Shanghai sponsored by WPI and China-based WE Advertising. Today, our R&K account teams regularly make overseas trips serving client needs by tapping into local capabilities of other independent, partner agencies.

Combining the services of WPI with our own criteria, R&K has now made significant progress managing through the complexities of conducting business internationally. We have established infrastructure which allows us to generate international contracts, manage through international tax law, understand cultural business protocol, and allow us to create business opportunities for our clients throughout the world.


by Alan Quarry, President

At Quarry, we understand that power in the marketplace has now shifted to the customer. Control of the marketing process has been transferred from the seller to the buyer. We help our clients identify unique buying propositions and understand how, where and when their customers want do to business, because those are now the key business drivers.

To ensure we understand what our clients' customers want, Quarry has been working hard to expand our rural roots customer insight network I mentioned last year. We are now in touch with about 75 farm families across North America. These families vary widely in terms of where they live and what they grow. What they share is a genuine, unfiltered perspective of what's important to them and their farm business.

Based on this insight and our experience, we realize how important consistent, positive customer experiences are at all contact points. Our clients tell us that we provide great value by connecting them in meaningful ways to customers and prospects across a multitude of channels.

Quarry has earned many global assignments, including marketing Blackberry in Australia, Nortel phone systems in Europe and BASF's launch of metaflumizone, a new insecticidal active. We're even better equipped to handle global business now that we're a member of ICOM, the world's leading international network of independent agencies.

What else are we doing that's different? Quarry's going green. With the enthusiastic support of 120 Qmates, Quarry has started a cardigan sweater club, our way of recognizing staffers who turn down their thermostats at the office and at home. We're handing out energy-efficient light bulbs and we've increased our efforts to recycle more paper. Heck, I've even acquired a SMART Car, a two-seater that gets more than 50 miles to the gallon. Parking has never been so easy!

Here's what we're doing the same at Quarry: We're living by the mantra that has sustained us through many years of building our clients' businesses: Think and feel like the customer, always anticipate and have fun.

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