The evolving ag media landscape and its fit in marketing to farmers

by Jeff Walter
March 14, 2017

evolving ag media digital vs. traditional

As new technologies emerge and budgets get tighter, don’t fall for the false dilemma, leverage all your tools.

While at Commodity Classic, I had a chance to address a room full of ag media editors and broadcasters on current digital media trends and what our clients are looking for. It was a great conversation, with lots of interesting dialogue and questions. But it was a conversation I would find myself having several times over the course of my time at Commodity.

The underlying question behind these conversations was this: How can more traditional ag media outlets (print, radio) compete for dollars and maintain a leadership role in ag marketing in the face of expanding non-ag digital platforms and tools with built-in, real-time metrics?

It used to be that the only efficient way to target farmers with a message was by paying to be next to the ag content they were seeking and consuming – a 30-second radio spot during the noon farm show or a print ad in their farm news weekly.

But new technologies like programmatic and targeted social now allow us to buy specific audiences and serve our content/ads to them outside of this previous restriction. Combine that with instant analytics and optimization plus decreasing client budgets, and it can start to look a little doom and gloom for our friends in the ag media world. But to paraphrase one of my favorite authors, the reports of ag media’s death are greatly exaggerated.

Firstly, the relationship between ag media and farmers is alive and well. Farmers have a great deal of trust in their ag media and consistently rate ag media outlets as a primary source of information when researching new products and solutions for their operation. We discussed the importance of respecting the farmer’s relationship with ag media in a previous blog. These ag media outlets are the original content brands, and farmers will continue to seek and consume their content.

Secondly, any good ag marketer will not fall for the false dilemma of a traditional ag media plan OR non-ag digital plan. To ignore either one is to sell a marketing plan short. The reality is that farmers are people too, and they behave accordingly. They consume more media content than ever, across a wider range of channels, just like we do. A media stacked day is an opportunity, not a problem.

The truth is that the ag marketing landscape is evolving, and traditional ag media outlets have to face some of these challenges head-on. But for the rest of us marketers, there are more options than ever to effectively find and engage our farmer targets. After the conversations I had at Commodity Classic, I am hopeful that our ag media partners will push themselves to continue evolving to ensure relevance to farmers and in the marketing mix. They are focusing on three areas that will benefit marketers:

  • Investing in farmer media consumption studies to quantify value – ensure they have strong and current data to tell their story and drive home the importance of their channel and specific media outlet if possible. Without this information, it can be harder to make the case for a balanced approach of traditional and digital.
  • Modernizing their digital platform offerings – work to modernize and enhance with newer tools like native and in-banner video capability. There is currently a very wide range of functionality and performance of ag media web platforms.

Shifting their audience focus – they know their audience better than anyone, but do they know each target better than anyone? They are working to see their target audience as individuals, to capture each farmer’s interests, needs, demographics and more, and to enable better targeting and more customized messaging opportunities.


Jeff Walter
About the Author – Jeff Walter

President/Chief Integration Officer. Jeff combines 20 years of client service experience with his deep knowledge and passion for agriculture, which stems from growing up on a corn and soybean farm in northern Illinois. He is a quick study of the brand, the customers and competitors, knows the right questions to ask, and with his oversight on planning and analytics, pushes the team to category-defining strategies and results-driven plans.


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Since 1978, the ag-marketing experts at Rhea + Kaiser have been helping brands connect with the farmer customer.

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