Advertising has a lot of weird, niche pockets. And for every general-market, consumer-focused agency out there, there's one that's found a niche where they flourish. Osborn Barr is just that type of agency - with a deep-rooted affinity for agriculture and rural America.


Which begs the question, "Just what the ever-loving #*$& was I doing there?" Well, Monsanto, one of their founding and cornerstone clients, felt that the work they were doing was too... agricultural. Too much focus on data, not enough on conveying a brand promise. Fair enough, the average category ad looked like a spreadsheet.


Let's keep this in mind - I don't farm. Never have farmed. Most likely never will farm. I don't know a corn earworm from a nematode. I don't even know what a nematode is - and I was on this brand for a year and a half.


What they wanted was some grit. Some attitude. Some intelligence. My new creative team - colloquially referred to as "city mice" around Osborn Barr's Americana-bedecked halls, got to work.



This was also as traditional media a brand as they get. Print - lots and lots of it - in publications with titles you'd think I were making up. "Midwest High Plains Dairy Farmer" and "Dakota Corn Grower Journal", though just invented by me right this second, would not be a stretch. We used print to tap into the brand's 98-year legacy, without coming off as overly boastful. The best part was constantly refreshing the message and the mounds of promotional trash and trinkets from decades past, consistently solidifying a brand with a promise.





And as we prepared to launch the pre-centennial hooplah, we created what I thought to be one of the most earnest and downright honest celebrations of this proud industry. Maybe it was all those focus groups in rural South Dakota putting some warmth into this city mouse, but I really liked what we said. You'll have to forgive the 4:3 aspect, when you're cherrypicking archival footage, you can't be too fussy.



In my brief and sole foray into advertising to farmers in rural America, I did learn a valuable technique - listen. Listen to their conversations and the way they speak to each other. We make a lot of safe assumptions when it's just ads aimed at people we've met a thousand times already. But farmers have their own secret handshake, their own language and their own world-view. Rather surprising and reaffirming I was able to walk amongst them undetected, though those South Dakota focus groups did give me a justifiable fear of banjo music.