AT PRESS TIME the results of the October federal election weren’t known. But regardless of who is governing our country, it is important for our leaders to understand the importance of Canadian agriculture and the impacts their decisions have on the livelihoods of farmers.
When the election was called in September, Grain Farmers of Ontario launched a political ad campaign. This campaign was different. And not surprisingly, the direction we took had some of our farmer-members questioning who the target audience was for this ad.
An animated video showed a female farmer concerned about the implications of the global trade war on her farm. She wanted to have security and stability for her future. The video depicted conversations with the farmer and her mother and the farmer and her non-farming boyfriend, both of whom had thoughts of marriage. However, the female farmer was more concerned with getting government support. In the end, the government supported farmers, and the female farmer was able to marry her boyfriend.
The video included some important information — such as the fact that Canadian soybean prices are tied to American prices and that Ontario’s grain industry creates 75,000 jobs and $18 billion in economic activity.
The video was posted to Facebook and could also be shared through other social media platforms. The video was promoted through an ad campaign designed to garner attention for the video and the struggles grain farmers are facing. Within the first week of being launched, the ad reached more than 612,000 people, 34,000 people watched the video, and more than 28,000 people engaged with our social media posts.
When I first saw the video, I did wonder about it — was it right for us? But I had to remind myself that I had to change the way I was viewing it.
I wasn’t the target audience — and to be frank, if you are reading this, neither were you.
The video was for political candidates, party leaders, and the political staffers that surround them — those that get their news and information on social media, with constant updates through their mobile devices. During an election, you can only imagine how many issues get raised with a candidate in a day let alone the number of days of the campaign. That’s why you need something that stands apart; and that’s what we tried to do to get across the challenges farmers are facing with the trade uncertainty.
After the video was launched, I received a couple of calls from farmer-members. They were critical of how this campaign was designed. I appreciate anytime a farmer calls to share their concerns, and that’s why I took the time to explain our position and reasoning behind the ad. It’s important to understand that we don’t have the same communications budget that other organizations do. We produce what we can to have the biggest impact in the most cost-effective manner. We don’t have the budget to pay for actors and buy air-time on television across the province. But again — that isn’t where people are getting their information from anyways.
In addition to the views and shares we have seen on social media, we have already heard that people who have seen our video now understand our concerns and now realize how much we contribute to the economy when they hadn’t realized this before.
It is still to be seen what government support grain farmers will receive, but our farmer-members should know that we are doing everything we can to work on their behalf. •