For years, farmers have worked to connect farming and food; now restaurants and food companies are beginning to join the advocacy movement.
In 2009, Lay’s potato chips started an advertising revolution and brought its potato growers into the spotlight. Ads for Ocean Spray cranberry juice feature "farmers," but are those guys real farmers or actors? A new campaign from McDonald’s features real-life farmers and ranchers who actually supply food to the restaurant chain.
In mid-December, McDonald’s chief marketing officer, Neil Golden, tweeted from @McDListenTour, "1 thing we’re doing is telling our farm 2 fork story abt our foods. Ads debut in Jan." On Jan. 2, McDonald’s launched a series of ads featuring three of its "third-party suppliers," according to Ad Age. Dirk Giannini (no relation to the author), a lettuce grower in California; Frank Martinez, a Washington potato grower; and Steve Foglesong, a beef producer in Illinois, are each featured in a series of web and print ads in magazines such as Cooking Light and a television ad that can be viewed on YouTube and the McDonald’s website.
All of the ads highlight the freshness of McDonald’s products, but each farmer offers an additional unique perspective. Martinez’s ads focus on the opportunities that farming in America has afforded his family. Giannini’s ads center on stewardship, and Foglesong’s ads focus on multigenerational farming. Will consumers, influenced by previous ads claiming to feature farmers, believe that Giannini, Martinez and Foglesong are the real thing? Many of our Facebook followers didn’t believe Martinez was a real potato grower when we posted his TV commercial prior to the launch of the ad campaign. Truth be told, Martinez is a real potato farmer, Giannini’s family has been growing lettuce in the Salinas Valley for four generations and Foglesong is a former president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Will consumers believe the farmer angle or will they see the ads as simply a sustainability promotion by McDonald’s?