Producers question cash spent on ad campaigns
By Richard Allison
GENERIC advertising is again being questioned with the sudden end of the White Stuff milk campaign and pig producers debating the value of the British Meat campaign.
The Dairy Industry Federation, which represents dairy companies, recently announced the suspension of funding for the campaign until its impact is fully assessed (News, Nov 16).
Producers are now in a difficult position, says Lancs-based producer-processor John Towers. "The whole dairy industry has benefited from the White Stuff campaign and milk processors would still benefit from any campaign fully funded by producers."
After suspension of the campaign, Mr Towers will use the cash saved from the milk levy to expand local advertising of his branded range of milk and milk products.
In light of the White Stuff campaigns success, it is reported to have increased sales by 60m litres in 18 months, Leics-based milk producer John Stanley believes producers should pay more towards advertising. The advertising levy should be nearer 1p/litre, but milk processors should also contribute, he adds.
"Coca-Cola recently spent £100m to promote its product with the Harry Potter film, surely milk is worth a few million for promotion. But unlike Coca-Cola, quotas limit milk production and the industry would find it difficult to meet a 3-4% increase in consumption."
But processors pulling the plug is not an excuse for producers to do the same, we must tell consumers what a healthy, wholesome and traceable product milk is," he says.
One member of the Dairy Industry Federation, Long Clawson Dairy, is also disappointed with the suspension of the campaign, says its chairman, Roy Eggleston. "Milk advertising has indirect benefits for dairy products.
"Timing is also poor. Christmas provides an opportunity to boost sales of dairy products. Advertising is not something that can be dropped and picked up in six months time when all momentum has been lost."
Similarly, pig producers have been debating how the MLC promotion levy is spent on advertising and promoting pigmeat, says NPA director Richard Longthorp.
Pig producers feel a multi-species organisation is not the best way to promote pigmeat, says North-Lincs pig producer Meryl Ward. "Pork competes with lamb and beef for supermarket shelf space."
But MLC marketing director, Richard Lowe, defends the MLC pigmeat and marketing strategy. "Pigmeat promotion is managed separately from beef and lamb promotion."
The NPA debate also centres on the balance between the national meat campaign and supply chain initiatives and whether there should be less emphasis on advertising, says Mr Longthorp.
Mr Lowe agrees with the limited role of generic advertising of meat. "It is not straightforward, as TV adverts can also benefit sales of imported meat, particularly bacon and ham."
That is why only one-quarter of the £6.5m generated by the pigmeat promotion levy is spent on advertising. Most cash is spent on projects supporting supply chains, such as encouraging British pigmeat in the food services sector.
But pork consumption is still falling, says Mrs Ward. "Both producers and processors should pay for promotion as they both have a vested interest in boosting consumption. However, the MLC should retain educational work, healthy eating and compiling statistics."
Lack of communication between producers and the MLC on how the levy is spent is the problem, believes Mr Lowe.
There have been successful campaigns, such as the one tackling the oversupply of shoulder meat this spring due to the foot-and-mouth export ban. By linking TV ad with in-store promotions, consumption was increased, says Mr Lowe.
But Mrs Ward argues that the promotion levy should be optional for producers who sell pigmeat through their own outlets and promote their own products.
Devon-based producer John Carter sells finished pigs through his farm shop. "We advertise locally with leaflets at farmers markets. But the national advertising campaign is still helpful by making consumers think about eating pork. *
• Producers should pay.
• Processors must contribute.
• Optional for direct sellers?