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Agrimarketing : May 2008
May 2008 ¦ AgriMarketing 37 the Midwest. For us, this was a huge accomplishment.” However, mergers and consoli- dations continued to throw hurdles in their way. In 1986, Rhône-Poulenc bought Union Carbide . R+K pitched and retained the business in 1987. In 1999, Rhône-Poulenc merged with Agrevo to form Aventis. The agency won that review in 2000 only to have to pitch this business again in 2002 when Bayer purchased Aventis to form Bayer CropScience and was awarded the corn, soybean, cotton, peanuts, rice and horticultural busi- nesses. “From that point, we began a major diversification that has today taken us into health care, animal health, food, industrial/equipment and public safety sectors plus expan- sion into global markets,” Rhea says. That diversification has driven the agency to achieving annual income of over $15 million, with 100 employees (see page 50). OPPORTUNITIES/CHALLENGES The agency business is rife with risks. But there are certainly rewards that come with it. “The greatest opportunity I see,” Rhea says, “is to work with great clients with whom we share com- mon values. Our clients represent great products that we really believe in and we enjoy supporting. “At the same time,” he says, “the challenge is finding enough good people who know agriculture and have the knowledge and desire to turn marketing objectives into great marketing communications for ag clients.” Now with clients in both the ag industry, as well as B2B accounts, Rhea brings a unique and knowl- edgeable perspective of serving sev- eral markets. “In our experience, we find ag accounts to be more stable,” he says. “However, our approach to strat- egy, creative and problem-solving for consumer and B2B accounts is very much the same. We build on our brand identity, built around the theme of ‘Uncommon Sense.’ Anchored by our core values of hon- esty, discipline and respect, R+K strives to consistently deliver work that surprises our clients — and their customers.” Similarly, the agency is now working with multi-national clients with a global view, as opposed to when it started as principally mar- keting to Midwestern U.S. farmers. Rhea says, “Often when developing domestic strategies for global clients, we are being asked to create strate- gies that can be implemented globally. To be successful in this assignment, we joined Worldwide Partners , an international alliance of 80 independent agencies — approxi- mately 92 agency partners in the U.S. and 51 located internationally. “Knowing the leaders of these independent agencies around the world has given us a huge advan- tage in helping R+K extend our clients’ reach overseas whenever the opportunity presents itself.” CHANGES, CHANGES Consolidation in the ag market has created more mergers and acquisi- tions of ag businesses. Additionally, clients have requested more marketing solutions. And they are demanding more measur- able results. How has R+K dealt with those changes? Rhea says that as an integrated agency R+K has broadened its services beyond advertising to include public relations, event marketing, sales pro- motion, and dialogue mar- keting which include elec- tronic-based and direct marketing. “Years ago, Van and I made the proactive deci- sion to begin hiring account, creative, media and interactive personnel with agency and consulta- tive experience in con- sumer and B2B communi- cations who thought differently and approached problem solving in ways that were different than our tradi- tional approach,” Rhea reports. This move has enabled R+K to adapt consumer strategies for ag clients, remain independent and allowed it to pursue consumer and B2B clients that previously would not have considered R+K. Another change is that clients have many measurements for its agency success but formalized met- ric measurements have become a much more important part of client evaluation. “Of course, clients expect us to help them meet their established communications’ goals,” he contin- ues. “They measure our knowledge of their industry, even to the point of identifying new business opportuni- ties for them. “They also evaluate our ability to connect with media and other com- munications agencies. And we are evaluated on the innovation of our ideas and our ability to get work done on a timely basis. Additionally, it has become fundamental for us to keep clients informed on how to use new, or non-traditional, media. Another change is that agency reviews are more secretive than they were in years past. “Today when you pitch for an account,” Rhea says, “you often aren’t told by the client/prospect with whom you are competing. “Additionally, on larger new busi- ness opportunities, agency search consultants have become a bigger (more on page 38) R+K co-founders Steve Rhea (r) and Van Kaiser with the early 1980s “Depression Era” R+K holiday card – one of many holiday party invitations for which the agency became known. The photo, shot under the Chicago “L” tracks, reflected the time’s struggling agriculture economy.
May 2008 Supplement
Canadian Agribusiness Employer Guide 08