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.