Meat through the ages: NZ Beef and Lamb chief goes back in time to draw attention to the Quality Mark

For the past few years, the Iron Maidens—Sarah Walker, Sophie Pascoe and Lisa Carrington—have been promoting the culinary pleasures of the flesh. But NZ Beef and Lamb has taken a slightly different tack with its new ‘Tough Standards, Tender Results’ campaign, which shows how the butchery trade has changed throughout the years and aims to reinforce the attributes of the New Zealand Beef & Lamb Quality Mark.

In place for 17 years, the Quality Mark has assured Kiwi consumers they are purchasing New Zealand-grown, free range, grass-fed product that reaches the highest standards of animal welfare, food safety and also guarantees tenderness. And the new campaign aims to remind customers of these attributes and point them towards the red, yellow and black rosette in store. 

Devised by Tangible Media Content Marketing and shot in a butcher shop in Auckland by OnDigital, Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive and butcher by trade Rod Slater donned the appropriate attire and bravely fronted the ad alongside MasterChef 2012 winner Chelsea Winter. 

And he’s a good man for the job: Slater’s father was a butcher and he grew up in the house next door to the family’s butcher store in Auckland’s Mt Albert. His first official job at the age of 10 was delivering meat parcels around the neighbourhood after school. “The basket out the front of the bike was loaded up and I’d set off. It was so full the only way to stop was to fall off.”  

Later he worked in the shop after school, and was kept busy with jobs such as the daily cleaning of the sausage machine.

“In those days the butcher was the local confidant,” he says. “Housewives would tell the butchers all their problems, and they would dispense advice on life and on the chops to buy for dinner.”

At 15 he left school, ready for some adventures. And on his OE in England, he worked in south London where he was hugely impressed by the talent of the local butchers in displaying their wares. Back in New Zealand in his early twenties, he bought his own butcher’s shop in New Lynn and also studied towards a business degree at night school.  

Over the years, he has observed huge changes in the butchery trade, whether it be stricter health and safety policies to the culinary advice butchers can now offer. 

“My father had a cat called Ginger who’d lie on the counter to greet the customers. Imagine doing that today!” he says. “Giving out free cheerios to kids stopped about 20 years ago. Some butchers switched to giving out lollies, but you couldn’t do that today either.”   

In the early 1980s—at a time when butchers were striking over the new Saturday shop openings—Slater established the Mad Butcher retail chain with Peter Leitch.

“Peter was a brilliant marketer,” he says. “Like the traditional UK butchers he was a natural at developing rapport with customers, only he used radio to develop this relationship. Pete would get on radio and within 20 minutes the shop would be full.” 

When it comes to retail, big and small have always been at odds. And the meat trade is no different. So Slater was chosen to be the face of the campaign because he sat somewhere between the independent butchers and the big supermarkets and was able to endorse both. And while most viewers won’t know who the chap in the ad is, it certainly creates a point of difference and adds to the authenticity of the ad for those who do, although he says moonlighting as the talent has been tough to get his head around. 

“We’ve long known the Quality Mark is a real jewel in our crown. It’s a programme that really cements our products’ superiority and we thought it was time to remind consumers exactly what it stands for,” he says. “It will be strange to see myself on TV and billboards but at the end of the day we wanted to make the advert as good as possible and the team decided I was the right frontman. The ad is a good one, we’re very excited about it, this all comes down to a great creative idea which we think the industry will love and consumers will learn from.”

While the Iron Maidens aren’t involved in this campaign, which involves print, point of sale, TV, digital and billboards, Slater says they are still a key part of the programme and they will still be appearing as ‘Beef’ ‘+’ and ‘Lamb’ at a number of events during the year.

As per usual, and in keeping with the content-led strategy evident in Meat magazine, the campaign also points meat lovers in the direction of www.recipes.co.nz

  • Tangible Media Content Marketing and OnDigital are part of the Image Centre Group, which also owns StopPress. 

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