Farmer & grazier advertising industry stereotypes

The Weekly Times newspaper is running a Poll gauging opinion on whether the latest dairy farmer bogan-stereotype Devondale ads should be ditched. Unfortunately over the years farmers of all kinds have been portrayed by the Australian advertising industry as straw-chewing hicksvilleans.  It’s invariably a reflection of the lack of education (on the practical front), intelligence and creativity of the ad agency staff involved. And the company management that approved the ads.

By contrast, smart companies know that representing producers/manufacturers as intelligent, efficient, honest and personable encourages consumers to buy.  There’s plenty of examples of brilliant agricultural advertising – such as this 1990 Sunrice advertisement.

Criticising the stereotyping of professions doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.  The NRMA ‘Charter Boat’, ‘Naughty dog’ and other ads, some of the Yellow Pages ads (eg the ‘leaking roof – call a plumber’ classic), and the hilarious XXXX ads such as the barra in the wheelbarrow and rotisserie chicken.  All brilliant, uniquely Australian ads illustrating humour done well, without promoting any prejudices.

There is plenty of hideous advertising in relation to rural Australia.  Such as some of the Angel Flight ads like this one featuring an elderly gent all on his own;  complete with calling crows and road signs creaking on deserted dirt roads.  The only thing missing is the broken shutters on the deserted timber buildings banging in the wind while tumbleweeds blow down the empty main street to an Ennio Morricone movie soundtrack!  Feel like moving to the bush?  I don’t think so, not after watching these depression-inducing ads – portraying the outback as dead & dying!  Angel Flight is a great service but the creators of these ads have made mournful rural advertisements designed to ensure that no young graduating medical professionals- or anyone else – would ever aspire to moving into the bush.  So long-term, remote outback residents are more likely to require a service such as Angel Flight, due to increasing de-population of the bush and the difficulty of enticing medical professionals to live and work anywhere other than capital cities. Clearly this ad agency could see no further than creating an award-winning ad in the short term.

Does promotion of these stereotypes really matter?  Generally people don’t form stereotypical views consciously, it’s an unconscious process – from a constant drip, drip of images soaked up from different sources. If someone has never met a farmer or know anyone else that has, naturally they’ll gain their view from the only sources they have – the media & entertainment industry. Not just media news and advertising – also films such as ‘Babe’,  ‘Chicken Run’, ‘Open Season’ and a number of other films over the last couple of decades that have  underlying common themes of the need to protect talking, decision-making cute animals from evil, nasty rural people/farmers.  Harmless entertainment?  No – potentially far more damaging than any amount of ‘documentaries’ promoted by animal rights extremists, because in films the message is subtly put across while people are laughing.

Film stereotypes are difficult to counter, but negative advertisements can be tackled relatively easily.

Agriculture is not the only area of employment that has suffered at the hands of Australian ad agencies, whose staff are mostly not just capital-city born and bred but based in a relatively small handful of suburbs, with a similar education, life experience, political views etc.  Apologies for the stereotyping; but it’s a fact that the majority would vote in a particular direction!  It’s also why we see so many in the ad industry supporting causes such as Earth Hour (promoting a reduction in meat eating, to ‘help the planet’).

It would be good to see the general public complaining more loudly to companies who approve the promotion of negative stereotypes in all fields of employment, not just the farming sector.  Add to that ageist and sexist stereotyping, which does no-one any good.  It’s the people paying – consumers – who are in charge.  We just need to realise social media now provides the perfect avenue to complain about the harmful stereotypes being promoted.  We’ve got the power to change it for the better, and only got ourselves to blame if we don’t.

Don’t like the Devondale portrayal of dairy farmers?  Go to the poll link above and vote.

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