Delving into dairy advertising

lauren rosewarneWhile the UK’s dairy ads celebrate farmers, Australia’s make fun, argues Lauren Rosewarne of the University of Melbourne in an item first posted on The Conversation

My friend, the dairy farmer, rang me on the Monday to champion the multi-million dollar Yeo Valley ad from the UK.


Yeo Valley ad (2011)

Only a couple of days later she would ring in ever-exacerbating fury about Victoria’s new Devondale campaign:

Devondale “Girlfriend” ad (2012)

Devondale “Porch” ad (2012)

Ten-odd years of friendship and we’ve never had any reason to argue. The spruiking of dairy apparently brings out our fightin’ spirit.

In one corner we have my friend, the dairy farmer. She’s construing the Yeo Valley campaign as slick, as modern, as giving due honour to contemporary dairy farming. It’s everything she wants in an industry tout.

Everything, apparently, that the Devondale campaign isn’t.

Her claim is that the Devondale campaign mocks dairy farmers. Depicts them as hicks. Presents farming practices as retrograde. Portrays the industry as something to laugh at.

I’m in the other corner. Complete with a furrowed brow. To me, the Yeo Valley ad is what happens when anyone tries to look cool. It screams “geeks” getting makeovers on bad reality TV shows; politicians trying to be funny, cool. It’s awkward, it’s contrived and it’s the polar-opposite of hip.

I’m not going to champion the Devondale ads. In general I quite love the art of advertising, but an ad needs to be pretty bloody special for me to get excited about it. I might find the hillbilly farmer caricatures uninspired, but I certainly don’t see them as offensive.

While she and I are no longer discussing the ads for the sake of our friendship, our differing views nicely encapsulate some of the big challenges of advertising.

My friend, the dairy farmer, wants the dairy farmers to get their due, their dignity, their kudos. Yeo Valley does this apparently, Devondale doesn’t.

A line that she will never forgive me for, but hell, I’m rarely adverse to throwing caution to the wind: who bloody cares about the dairy farmers? I’m asking this, of course, from a marketing perspective, but in all seriousness: why on earth would Devondale spend money to make their farmers feel better about their labours?

When do companies ever put employee morale at the forefront of an external communications strategy?

Even the Yeo Valley ad isn’t really about the farmers, it’s about branding; it’s about achieving cut-through, about constructing a brand differential.

Both campaigns are about peddling cheese, hawking milk, trafficking in yoghurt, but that’s it. To expect them to do anything more is ridiculous.

As a left-leaning, city-dwelling dairy consumer, sure, I might like reassurance that the cows are treated well, but I couldn’t care less about the farmers.

I don’t care if they seem like interesting or fun people or whether they use the newest, shiniest milking machinery or if they wear the latest Driz-A-Bone tracksuits.

So long as their working conditions are decent then I just want my to eat my yoghurt in peace, thank you.

To look to advertising for professional validation is not only delusional, but fails to acknowledge the central objective of advertising: to sell stuff. Succeeding in anything else is just cream.

  • Dr Lauren Rosewarne is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.


  1. Emma
    12 Nov 12
    12:05 pm

  2. I agree with your friend. Make farming sexy and appealing, not dorky, dumb and un-funny. Build the farmers up, don’t tear them down. The whole farming industry is suffering now and advertisers are adding to this image problem. Pay them more, look after them and perhaps more will stay on the land. Otherwise Australia is going to suffer in the long run.

  3. Sarah
    12 Nov 12
    2:08 pm

  4. Um, not sure your intro sums up the article correctly. isn’t Lauren’s article about telling insecure dairy farmers to get over themselves, as it’s a consumer campaign to sell cheese, not an exercise in validating the farmers’ collective ego?

    “To look to advertising for professional validation is not only delusional, but fails to acknowledge the central objective of advertising: to sell stuff.”

  5. Missing the point entirely...
    12 Nov 12
    2:38 pm

  6. Both campaigns use humour (or try to) – to sell dairy. The Yeo Valley one succeeds – using a clever satire of the boy band genre – some hilarious lyrics, top casting and a brilliant media placement (in X Factor). Devondale uses nnothing to make it memorable!

  7. LB
    12 Nov 12
    2:39 pm

  8. It’s got absolutely ZERO to do with making dairy farmers feel better about themselves. What the Devondale campaign should be communicating is that Australian dairy farmers produce amongst the best, if not the best, dairy products in the world. Our worlds best practices, highly refined farming, fresh pastures to graze on (which produces happy cows who give superb milk) all go to make the Australian dairy industry the envy of the world.
    No, I am not a dairy farmer (although, to be fair, I do have dairy farmers in the family), but I work in, and love, advertising and am saddened to see such a lazy, stereotypical campaign representing such a progressive industry.

  9. Missing the point entirely...
    12 Nov 12
    2:40 pm

  10. sorry – here is the link to the best Yeo ad –

  11. Jeremy
    12 Nov 12
    4:15 pm

  12. I agree with Emma and your friend. If we look at both ads:

    1. Yeo Valley: Brand oriented, designed to show the progressive nature of their suppliers. This is good for both the providers and the brand as it’s positioning them in a way that’s attractive to their (largely urban-based) consumers and is more representative of the current state of farming.

    2. Devondale: Product oriented. Smooth and tasty. Got it. Pretty sure that describes most of the block-style cheeses in the market. Not really a meaningful point of difference. What else does it achieve? Nothing, really. It perpetuates a played-out stereotype and is full of irrelevant, low-value distractions.

    Do either of these help sell more of cheese? I’m not sure.
    But if I had to look at what both are achieving at a brand, or even industry level, I’ll take the Yeo Valley ad any day, even though it is a bit “cheesy”.

  13. Alison Fairleigh
    12 Nov 12
    8:13 pm

  14. Actually, how farmers are portrayed in advertising matters very much. It matters because, for most urban people, it is the only exposure they have to the people who produce their food and fibre. It matters because the decisions urban people make with their “purchasing power” directly impact on farmers and the communities who support them. It matters because urban people use “rural stereotypes” to make sweeping, and often, incorrect generalisations about farmers and the way they care for the environment and animal welfare. It matters because urban people sign petitions and put pressure on governments to establish policies regarding farming that cause irreparable damage to rural communities. It matters because farmers are getting older, yet we have fewer young people willing to enter farming because it’s not “sexy” and is seen as irrelevant. It matters because our farmers are taking their own lives at an alarming rate. It matters because “the devaluing of rural Australia as an important contributor to Australia’s social and economic fabric; and the declining profitability of core industries in rural Australia, including an absence of understanding and support for these industries by metropolitan communities and governments” have been identified by Suicide Prevention Australia as significant contributing factors to the high rate of suicide in rural Australia. It matters because these irresponsible stereotypes have deadly consequences. But most of all … it matters to me and the people I love, who turn on the TV at night, see an advertisement like Devondale’s, and groan with despair as one more rail is broken in the bridge we are trying so desperately to build between urban and rural Australia.

  15. Sal
    12 Nov 12
    11:38 pm

  16. When did the advertising industry become responsible for the image of, or the mental health of another industry? Sounds harsh, but I’m on your side, Alison. I’m stunned that this year, the Year of the Farmer, doesn’t seem to have cut through. Farmers (and the NFF) need to be promoting their own industry far better. If farmers want to change their image, that’s great, but wishing won’t make it so. It’s a major challenge for someone. Let’s not blame anyone for the chasm between city mouse and country mouse. Let’s think about changing it from within.

  17. Dianne
    13 Nov 12
    2:02 am

  18. As a dairy farmer and a devondale supplier I’m saddened at the new advertising. The industry is working at promoting our industry as one that is great up be on, that we and professionals and one that produces a quality product. We are NOT hillbillies wearing flannelette shirts we are people who work very hard under often trying circumstances for little pay to produce something that is used many times a day by most Australians

  19. Hmmmm...
    13 Nov 12
    10:58 am

  20. As one who has a pathological dislike of any advertising that appropriates rap/hip hop, I still have to say that the Yeo Valley work absolutely shits all over the Devondale campaign.

    As others have pointed out, the Yeo Valley work actually positions the brand and gives me a reason to consider it over others. The Devondale campaign is just a lame series of unfunny hick-farmer gags and generic cheese messages, and gives me no reason to consider choosing them over own-brand block cheese.

    Lauren, you should listen to your friend on this one. She’s on the money.

  21. The Farmers Daughter..
    13 Nov 12
    12:28 pm

  22. Ah….Lauren Rosewarne actually working in this Industry I was somewhat interested in the opinion on both sides….then I came across your “I’m just a cool hipster gal” city loving chick line stating basically – I don’t give a shit about Dairy Farmers as long they live and use clean equipment let it all be about me, me, me – statement and was gob stopped and then more gob stopped that I read you teach….I felt the tremble of Fitzroy and Brunswick running thru the floor…you know what they say…Those that can do and those that can’t teach. Noble as it is.
    This was about two different approaches to selling dairy products and turned into something totally different..
    Personally I think that the old way of portraying people on the land as hicks is out dated and so irrelevant to the world today.
    There are treatments with sense of fun, and then just highly uncreative approaches.
    I think Yeo Valley was cheeky, not fabulous but likable…I think Devondale, who probably link tested the a*&e out this – just did a lazy, cliched job.
    BTW – hope you never teach my kids.

  23. Hmmmm...
    13 Nov 12
    1:08 pm

  24. Alison,

    you make some excellent points. But 270 words without a single paragraph break makes it very difficult to read them.

  25. Richard Moss
    13 Nov 12
    3:19 pm

  26. Almost absolute twaddle.

    The Yeo Valley ad is great, but it says no more, or less, about the reality of dairy farming than the Devondale ones do. Should either ? Not necessarily, as long as they sell product and entertain. The Yeo ad is an updated form of the old jingle that acts like an ear worm, combined with young, healthy and sexy people in an ancient and beautiful countryside setting, used in combination, to flog milk. Neither set says anything about Dairy Farmers, derogatory or otherwise.

  27. hmmm....
    14 Nov 12
    4:55 pm

  28. Quite a few comments here, i havent read them all, so i may be repeating something … with reference to ” who bloody cares about the dairy farmers? I’m asking this, of course, from a marketing perspective, but in all seriousness: why on earth would Devondale spend money to make their farmers feel better about their labours?”

    Devondale is part of MGC, which is a co-op. The farmers are in part shareholders of the business. Although the ad is aimed to promote the brand, i think it could’ve been executed differently, without having an intentional / unintentional dig at the farmers.

  29. Nostalgic NZ'er
    15 Nov 12
    9:11 am

  30. ‘Dev and Dale’ is a bit similar to Ches ‘N’ Dale for Goodman Fielder’s Chesdale Cheese from across the ditch.

    Created in the 1960’s, it was probably appropriate humour for that decade.

  31. Fiona Lake
    15 Nov 12
    12:58 pm

  32. I can see both sides to this argument. Yes farmers need to understand that everyone is trying to carve out a living and circumstances are often less than ideal; so expecting special treatment just feeds the unfortunate perception some have of ‘whingeing farmers’. Many occupations are treated with scorn by advertising – and they shouldn’t be (it’s just cheap, nasty laughs at someone else’s expense). However as some have pointed out above, it is actually in the advertiser’s best interests to present the producers of the products they’re selling as smart, efficient, thoughtful & reliable (rather than 1950s hicksvilleans). Great ads are a win/win for all involved, and humourous as well. Unfortunately very few in the advertising industry known anything at all about food & fibre production, so they’re just perpetuating the stereotypes they already believe themselves. Dumb ads are simply a reflection of the intelligence of the creators.