In association with Pan Media

Rural flair: Pan Media's quest to make regional advertising innovative

Rural advertising regularly sticks to some well-trodden tropes. But Pan Media founder Graeme Blake believes this doesn’t have to be the case. Damien Venuto chats to him about injecting a bit of creative flair into the regions.

July 8, 2016 | Sponsored content

The image of a farmer resting one arm on the fence and talking to the camera about how much he loves the land and the simple life is a familiar sterotype of rural people. And while it certainly is endearing, Graeme Blake, the founder of Hamilton-based agency Pan Media says it doesn’t do anyone any good.

“Farmers are very sophisticated consumers,” Blake says. “They’re not these ‘country hicks chewing on a blade of grass’ kind of thing. They’re affluent people.”

Blake says this type of work generally emerges in instances when the creative don’t have a strong connection with the rural community.     

“I think the mistake that conventional agencies make is that they put what could be Queen Street designers on agricultural clients, and these guys don’t even understand the products they sell.”

Having lived in Hamilton since his teenage years, Blake is not only familiar with rural New Zealand but is also a product of it.

Blake started Pan Media (dubbed the Love Agency) six years ago, and it has since grown to a staff of 13 full-timers.

“We’ve got a bunch of people who love what they do. We’re a small indie, but we punch above our weight.”

Blake says that another major problem in the rural sector is that farmers are treated as though they’re basically Amish settlers who shun all technology. 

“The rural market is pigeon-holed into press and radio at six o’clock in the morning. It’s as though these people aren’t general consumers who are exposed to the web and online advertising. There’s still this myth about broadband not being out in the rural market and that we don’t have 4G. It’s just crazy.”

In setting up Pan Media, Blake put digital at the core of the offering because this is where he saw the opportunity for cut-through.

He says the continued reliance on traditional channels has led to them becoming cluttered in the rural market.

“Everyone is trying to get into the post box, so you just have to think differently,” he says.

“We’re a very different agency, in that we’re exceptionally digitally forward.”

In addition to offering traditional marketing services, Pan Media also has social, search, web and user interface expertise available to clients.

As evidence of the agency’s digital nous, Blake points to Pan Media’s ‘Itchy Burny Bits’ STI awareness campaign, which was chosen as the runner-up in the Global Award earlier this year.

The digital campaign, which is still live, provides a quirky approach to teaching users about some of the symptoms they might have.

When initially rolled out, the campagin was targeted at residents across the Waikato, Lakes (Rotorua and Taupo), Tairawhiti (Gisborne) and Taranaki areas, but was particularly relevant to Hamilton, which struggled with the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases a few years ago.    

Blake says his agency always looks for a more creative solution when it comes to solving a client’s problem—an approach that applies to the work he does with farmers.

Fieldays is to farmers what Christmas is to retailers. It’s the consumerist heart of industry, and it’s an opportunity for brands to showcase their wares.

However, like retailers, farm product producers still take a very conventional—some might say boring—approach to promoting what they offer.

“Most of the time they just rock up at Fieldays and put a Fieldays special in your tractor window,” Blake says.

In a bid to change things up, Pan Media collaborated with Skycity’s The Local Tap House to develop a different kind of Fieldays activation for its client Power Farming.
The execution saw Skycity’s The Local Tap House and its carpark turned into the Power Farming HQ. Eight tractors were brought in to set the scene while local brewery Good George got onboard to create a Power Farming Provincial Pilsner for attendees to enjoy.

Customers who visited the Power Farming site at Fieldays were invited back to the bar to chat about life on the farm and enjoy the themed Pilsner. Hauraki FM's Leigh Hart and Jason Hoyte were also in attendance to broadcast from the event and promote it.

“These guys literally sucked the oxygen out of all their competition over Fieldays and they sold quite a few tractors,” Blake says.

Blake argues that creativity shouldn’t only be limited to agencies in the city centres and that the rural guys should also push the limits from time to time. It’s important to be different, he says time and time again during the interview.

As our chat winds down, I ask Blake if he would ever consider leaving Hamilton for the Big Smoke.

“No, absolutely not,” he shoots back instantly.

“Emphatically no. That’s no disrespect to Auckland or anywhere else, but Hamilton is a pretty cool place to live.”

I’ll lift a can of Power Farming Provincial Pilsner to that. 

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