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Agrimarketing : October 2012
October 2012 Agri Marketing 77 It was back in the 1980s that popular Agri Marketing columnist and late ad agency veteran Clancy Strock wrote his highly quoted "The World's Last Farmer" article (see page 86). Clancy speculated eloquently about the impending consolidation coming to one super large crop protection, seed, machinery company and co-op serving the one remaining farmer in the U.S. And then many agri-marketers added a phrase to that, "and took their communications account in-house!" Well, that simply has not happened. As communications has adapted to targeting a shrinking number of farmers and ranchers, the number of successful ag communication firms has remained the same, or perhaps even grown. What has changed is the integration of messages by a single communication company, where many of the disciplines were once delegated to specialized individual advertising, public relations, direct marketing, market research, strategic consulting, training and sales promotion companies. NEW SERVICES While specialized communication companies still thrive, many of them are adding services such as the recent announcement by long time industry public relations leader, Gibbs & Soell and their new strategic business consulting practice. Fleishman-Hilliard, Padilla Speer Beardsley and Weber Shandwick have also all added services to their original, mostly PR-based, practices. And the web brought a whole new list of services offered by both traditional and newly founded digital companies. So, here is the obligatory disclaimer from the author of this article. We are going to name names because the business of communicating to farmers and ranchers has indeed been led by some memorable personalities. Many of those names remain on the doors of the firms they led and are leading. We are certain we will miss names. We apologize for that. Nothing personal and we encourage all to e-mail us and point out who we missed. We will do our best to do a follow up article down the road. RANKINGS In 1976, Agri Marketing magazine decided to take a leap and begin to rank ag communication firms in order of size by capitalized billings. Those first years, most, but not all, firms cooperated in supplying numbers. We'll talk about how those rankings changed over the years, but first let's go back to when Agri Marketing was founded. About the only indication of communication company's size in the timeframe prior to 1976 is the print media expenditures compiled by Agricom. A subsidiary of Fletcher/Mayo/Associates, at one time the largest ag communications agency, Agricom tabulated spending only in ag publications. Back in 1971, for instance, the largest print advertisers were Elanco Products, Geigy Ag, New Holland, Ford Motor, American Cyanamid, International Harvester and John Deere. Some of those utilized outside advertising support and some worked in-house. Keenan McLaughlin secured the Geigy business in 1971 and it was not until 1975 that CMS&Z picked up the Elanco business. Yes, "S" for Shubert before Fultz and the "F" transitioned to CMF&Z in 1980. Foote, Cone & Belding Communications began working with International Harvester in 1962 and Richardson, Myers & Donofrio with American Cyanamid Animal Health in 1974. It was not until 1979 that Tucker Wayne joined forces with American Cyanamid Crop Protection. CONSUMER AGENCIES Somewhat of a trend developed 50 years ago with large national consumer agencies working with ag clients: Bozell & Jacobs, Marsteller, Campbell-Mithun, Saatchi & Saatchi, Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, Foot, Cone & Belding, D'Arcy-MacManus & Masius, Doyle Dane Bernbach, J. Walter Thompson, Ketchum, Ogilvy & Mather, Clinton E. Frank. AG-FOCUSED By contrast, in Agri Marketing's 2011 largest agency listing, the top five were all mostly ag-focused firms. Many in the industry credit Glenn Mayo and Rod Fletcher with their Fletcher/Mayo/Associates, St. Joseph, MO, and its "muddy boots" self promotion campaign as staking out a place in the market for agencies with mostly agricultural experience in lieu of larger more diverse consumer agencies. Following in their footsteps have been the likes of very large, mostly all ag-focused agencies such as Bader Rutter Associates, CMF&Z, Miller Meester, Rhea & Kaiser, Osborn & Barr, McCormick, AdFarm, Charleston|Orwig, Broadhead, NKH&W and Meyocks & Priebe. DIVERSIFIED In addition to serving their large base of ag clients, these agencies also serve a diversified client base that crosses many industries --- especially food. Gibbs & Soell, Colle+McVoy, Martin Williams, Muller Jordan Weiss, Gardner Advertising, Allan & Dorward, Kenrick, Sullivan Higdon, Valentine-Radford, Rumrill-Hoyt, Tucker Wayne, Carmichael Lynch, Brewer Advertising and Morgan & Myers are among those agencies. Looking at every few years since that original 1976 ranking, we can follow the story of ag communication agencies and the client partnerships they form. We'll talk mostly about the largest direct-to- farmer-and-rancher communication companies and not COMMUNICATION AGENCIES by Ted Priebe, Sr. Advisor, FLM+ (more on page 78)
November December 2012