I am not happy Woolworths

Agriculture has an image problem and Woolworths you are NOT helping

Have you seen these bizarre adds?

I mean have you ever seen a farmer dressed like “Malcolm”? What about the imagery of rural and regional Australia. What on earth are they thinking? The food looks like it has been transported from the 1950’s

This is what Generation Food and Fibre look like in the 21st Century. They are young professionals who are articulate, well educated, passionate and committed and they deserve better from Woolworths


Art4agriculture Young Farming Champions from NSW

To make it worse Young Farming Champion Kylie Stretton from QLD tells me she walked into her Woolies’ store this week and they were having Fresh Farm Day “with hay and  stupid hats and shirts with fake freckles”

Fake freckles OMG this all has to stop now. Once again the Aussie Farmer Image is  collateral damage in an advertising campaign.

Enough is Enough. Looking forward to your suggestions on how we tackle this.

Post script

This post has attracted a lot of conversation on twitter. The farmers aren’t happy but if the urban press is right this campaign is pure genius.

The very important question was asked on twitter “What image do we want agriculture/farmers to have”

After much twitter debate the question was answered

How do farmers want to be portrayed in the media? Exactly how they are “professional and caring”  Thank you Woolworths, the Food and Fibre generation fraternity look forward to your new adds with gusto

On another note this is not just a job for Woolworths – image needs to be created and it needs to be actively maintained. I am excited to be part of a team who has been charged by the National Farmers Federation working group on Labour, Skills and Education to help come up with the image vision. I am relishing the challenge and look forward to your feedback when we put our thoughts on the table. I can assure you “professional and caring” will be right at the top of the list

Some interesting thoughts from Dr Heather Bray here “Does getting it wrong bring us closer together”

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

24 thoughts on “I am not happy Woolworths”

  1. I thought the same thing when I had to negotiate the haybales in our local (rural) Woolworths. How patronising. Who is running their marketing? Playing up to stereotypes is so old school.

  2. ‘Patronising’ is a most apt description for these Woollies ad images. And the impression given by the accompanying soundtrack mustn’t be underestimated either. The music run with these ads is absolutely ghastly – bumblefooted hayseed type music (‘oh they’re all so slow and laid back in the country’, dinky-dink-dink). I wish we had the Peterson Farm Bros here to do their version of a genuine fresh food supermarket ad. Their recent Youtube video is what qualifies as ‘pure genius’, not the tired-old Woollies stereotyping. Most people in ad land wouldn’t know a real cow or a real farmer if they fell over one and don’t give a rat’s toss about about win/win, they only care about their side of the fence. Someone truly creative would develop an ad. campaign that everyone would benefit from.

  3. I was looking around for Calamity Jane in my local Woolies! This campaign is picking up on the ingrained view of what farmers are. To combat this perception is going to take time. Twitter has gone a long way to educating people as to what modern day ag is all about. During sowing a hashtag was started (tweetsfromthetractorcab) that certainly opened up a few guys view of what we do. Hence why there is a few pictures of my family’s auto steer set up on twitter with the accompanying description. That is just one example.

    I reckon a series of newspaper columns (and blogs like this one) of a day/week in the life of a farmer would be valuable. These could tell the “paddock to plate” story in a light hearted manner. However, I think things like twitter,YouTube etc are going to be where the real work needs to be done to change these perceptions, and I don’t think the message should come from a body like the NFF, GrainGrowers, etc. I think it needs to come from individuals on twitter.

    1. Yes Brad Some brilliant campaigns have been launched for ag via twitter including tweetsfromthetractorcab which I have even learnt from New technology in the grains industry certainly has the wow factor

  4. Following that enthralling twitter conversation I thought I would come and write something here!
    I totally agree with everything you have said Lynne.I think people in the city like it because they like the song and it’s all folksy and fun. But it makes all the people in the supply chain look terrible. It may just be an ad but this is how people in the city then perceive rural Australia as this is all they have to go by.
    I think we need to look at how we can reinvent the image of rural Australia and I am encouraged that the NFF are working on a new vision.
    I think a u-tube campaign could be used to promote rural Australia. The ads could highlight the many aspects of farming from marketing, accounting, social media, working out on the farm and also all the things farmers do off farm. I think they should also highlight the sense of community in the country and the working together as well as the strong connection that rural people have to their farms and their communities.
    There are many, many young and older farmers who are well educated, intelligent and up to date. We need to put ourselves on the same level as the urban folk so that they feel that they can relate to us. And so that perhaps when they are shopping they go – “oh hang on, I saw that ad and I feel like I know those people, they were great, they were “cool”, I will buy the slightly more expensive Australian product because they are awesome people and I know that this product is produced to the highest standards and will be better for me”.
    We need to show them that we are the best farmers in the world with some of the highest standards and best practice management. We need to highlight the environmental works and sustainable farming techniques that we use and we need to show that we are well and truly in the 21st century with our farming practices and that we are caring for the land in the best way possible.
    I have a vision. I am not sure it’s clear here. But it looks good in my head.
    Thanks for the opportunity to have my say Lynne, I look forward to things to come.

    And as I said on twitter, blogs like this are also fantastic for helping to promote the positive rural image. Love your work!

    1. Great reply….

      I like some of your thoughts for sure and the telling of the story of producers of our food!

      Just a little back ground that I have never owned a farm and only know of cousins and friends that have had farms. So my thoughts are from the ‘City’ people that need to get the ‘picture’ through a series of WOW moments for sure.

      Shows like ‘Country town rescue’ on the ABC I think did a great job and telling the story of the a small country town. It did not go into the details of actually farming thou went through the community life and how everyone works together.

      Taking something like this idea and creating a series that talks about the farmers like the (I hate to mention) the TV advert that was the McDonalds story on free to air could of been great for the farmer if it was not just an infomercial.

      So just a couple of thoughts…

      Find some great stories
      Show what really goes into producing a food
      Get ‘city’ people to tell the story
      Oh and make it light hearted, easy to watch and great characters.

      Just a couple of thoughts…..

  5. A big thank you to Woolworths for aligning and motivating the farmers of Australia, to refresh and renew our image. If this is the image, and level of professionalism of your suppliers then Australian agriculture has just received the wake up call its needed.
    We are motivated to change our image, are you motivated to upsell the level of the professionalism in which you portray your suppliers Woolworths??

  6. I like Brad’s idea of a newspaper column but again you run into the issue of whether a mainstream, city based paper would run such a thing. We know the rural papers can and do but we need to connect with those who actually have no idea of rural life at all.

  7. In the twitter conversation, the question was asked – ‘well what do farmers really want?’ All people want the same thing – to be respected. The Woolworths ads are disrespectful. There’s even a sniff of making fun of a potato farmer, who’s no spring chicken and not exactly Olive Oil (Popeye – if you’re old enough to know what I’m talking about) describing his triathalon training. Respect would be showing farmers as the professional businesspeople, landcare managers and typical caring family members, which most are. The ads could still be quirky, funny and interesting, with beautiful landscapes and inspiring soundtracks. And portraying farmers like this, rather than hicksvilleans, really would actually get far better results for Woolworths and not cost them a cent more. It’d be a case of win/win. We all need to be more proactive in regard to complaining about promotion of poor farmer stereotypes.

    1. Good points Fiona, but the issue for the owner of the ads is the image of the suppliers they are using. As almost every person involved in the Agricultural industry knows this is not the image of almost all industry participants. The company needs to ask themselves why it is this is the image of their suppliers, an image that does not align with that of its own employees. When they have answered that question we may see the company change the level of professionalism of it’s suppliers, and its advertising tact

      1. They had a certain message to get across and I don’t think it was anything to do with the farmers.

        They align themselves with this image because some market research company some where told them it would work and get an edge on the competition!

        So it is going to take more then allowing the major companies create the image of farmers in the minds of us city people.

      2. I agree with Mike, Woolworths has done their research and it seems that people in the city actually like this ad. It is just a shame that for a lot of people this is how they perceive the rural areas and farmers as it is the only thing they have to go by. So Mike, how do we work towards developing a better image of rural Australia? The Great Cafe Challenge I think is an excellent platform for reconnecting and improving perceptions. But what else do you suggest? Or any one else?

  8. Sorry Corey not quite sure what you mean. But in any case, from my dealings with graphic designers and ad agencies over the last 20 years or so, I’ve only met one or two with first hand rural experience. It seems to be the type of career that mostly appeals to people born & bred in capital cities – cafe loving types. (Stereotype, but true!) The people I’ve encountered over the years are almost always completely unfamiliar with anything beyond the suburbs and don’t believe there’s a good reason for them to bother finding out. So during my encounters I’ve always tried to point out the benefits for the ad agency’s customers (and thus the ad agency), if the content is more accurate (eg. farmers are portrayed more accurately). A good example of how change will happen if they realise it’s affecting their bottom line, is the gradual but steady improvement in national ad campaigns featuring cattle. 20 years ago it was common for ads featuring fat hairy cattle in rolling green hills, to appear in northern Australia. Tens of thousands of ad dollars wasted, much to the mirth of northerners. That stuff-up isn’t common any more. The message seems to have finally sunk in that if you’re running a national ad, you can’t stick brahmans or herefords in it – you’ve got to pick a crossover breed. Ultimately, the ad agencies are the ‘middlemen’. It’s vital to let the companies spending the dosh, i.e. the ad agency customers, know their ad has caused offence, and how it could be done better (i.e. better for them & us).

  9. Great comments everyone #soproud to farm and work alongside you. All this played out on Twitter interestingly enough in a space Woolworths has not yet moved into. So last century Woolworths whilst farmers are ahead of the curve

  10. Thanks for starting the conversation Lynne. When I first saw them I was thinking hey Woolies buy most of their food off large very proffessional farmers, not small family farms, maybe they used to in the 1960’s when the farmer part of the ad was set. I to think they have devalued the farmers so much it is time to change the image so yes things have to get really bad before they change to get better as Corey has so rightly pointed out. ideas, wondering how we can mesh the Target 100 videos that MLA have done into the ads somehow, reckon they do a great job as it is the farmers telling their story of how it is, not a pretent farmer playing a part in a garbage commercial. Are Ad makers responsible if they demean a group of people in the community?(Fiona has touched on this above) I’m sure there are some rules around that and maybe taking action may highlight the fact that their portrayal is so far from the truth it isn’t funny. This also shows the gap that supermarkets place between the producers and the consumers and how we need to jump that gap to bring the consumers closer to the producers, then to be harsh if Woolies don’t want to be part of that then so be it, we don’t need Woolies, they need farmers though. I’m sure fairly soon we can find a very smart way to get the message across judging by the intelligent comments I see above.

  11. As irritating as I find these ads, how do consumers WANT to perceive farmers? Do you think they’d be willing to pay a fairer price for product if they were to see large farms with hundreds of thousands of $ worth of machinery, land and other assets? Is that a little patronising to the consumer on a minimum wage- especially when asking for better prices? I’ve seen enough comments referring to farmers being greedy and always crying ‘poor me’. I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think either extreme is helpful. I’d be interested to hear from Woolies upon WHY they’ve taken the ‘poor backward hicks’ approach- remember their job is to appeal to the consumer to sell product- not the suppliers. I also find their portrayal of truck drivers and staff irritating- I don’t think anyone escaped a bit of ridicule in these ads!

    1. Hi Emily, you make some very valid points re value of land and machinery, and possible public perception. I accept as farmers we are our own worst enemies at times, always appearing to complain about the weather, the price, or the direction the wind blows!!!
      Having completed several TV interviews I was taken back about how there was a requirement to say what was needed to fit with the stories angle. Keep that in mind when you see, or hear a news article.
      Yes, our machinery is expensive, but when costs are amortized across the area cropped, or the productivity of the machine the cost is in ratio. In fact, larger machinery is keeping a lid on the cost of grain production, and more generally all food production. That’s possibly a message the farming community has to articulate to the broader community.
      Price is not an issue that has been raised in relation to this ad, it’s the image portrayed, and the message it sends. I also believe it demeaned several other occupations. The ad seemed to suggest food production areas are still in the 1950’s and the closer to a Woolworth’s store you got the more modern things became.
      Stereo types, not my remuneration were my issue with the ads, and I believe most other farmers would be of that view.
      All the best

  12. Previously posted following comment at
    ‘Woolies ads find their voice’
    21 Jun, 2012 08:13 AM
    an article appearing in The Land & other Fairfax publications
    “Great ,so you were seduced by the imagery & songs. What about the continued representation of all the rural participants in the supply chain as ‘whackos’ – ever seen a grower in a helmet?No.

    Ever seen a grower multi-skilling as an astute business person managing a complex production facility (and having to deal with the oligopolies screwing them over) ? Yes.”
    Grower organisations have to start mobilising members to present real people in these roles – have a library of videos, list of contacts ready for any press request for interview, etc.
    A good examples are the growers depicted on the Perfection website.

  13. Thanks for posting this Lynne,
    I agree entirely! As soon as I saw those new ads I was appalled at the portrayal of farmers and other agricultural workers. We need to promote farming and agriculture in a positive way to encourage young people to consider careers in the industry. Farmers need to be seen as professional, intelligent, innovative and resilient, not ignorant hicks with silly hats! I was also disappointed with the ‘fresh food’ campaign in my local Woollies (Mittagong, NSW) when I saw it. The flanny shirts, straw hats and overalls worn by staff were so outdated and stereotypical it was cringeworthy….

    Good to see I’m not the only one ‘not happy’ with the campaign!

  14. FYI Woolies response to a request to view this page (See https://www.facebook.com/woolworths for the original post and to leave your own reply!):
    Woolworths Australia’s Fresh Food People Thanks for you feedback about this, please be assured that we mean no offence in our recent ads. We have strong relationships with producers and suppliers across the primary industries sector who play key roles in our business. Our team went all over Australia and interviewed over 300 of our Woolies people and chose a handful of staff from around the country who had great & entertaining stories to tell. Have a nice weekend!

    1. Thank you Saskia for this well done I have worked quite closely with a number of key people at Woolworths in the past 3 years. Woolworths have invested significantly in a number of programs for next gen food and fibre producers that will help ensure our best and brightest are confident to move into this space. This is why I was so disappointed with the adds as I imagine many key Woolworths staff are as well. I am disappointed that humour and entertainment value is seen as more important than debunking stereotypes and portraying our farmers as the 21st century professionals they are, real people committed to producing affordable, nutritious and ethically produced food for Australians. Surely a professional and ethical and trusted supply chain from start to finish is what the Australian consumer wants to see and Woolworths is underestimating the values of their customers through these adds

  15. Saw a Coles ad last night. And guess what, I was reminded of all the other ads Coles have run over the last 6 or so months, which feature primary producers. In which the producers come across as ‘normal’. Not hay-chewing eccentrics from the 1950s. I love eccentrics in fact prefer them to bland, but if an oddity is the only representation of an industry you see (and for many Australians, the only image of farming they ever see is via supermarket advertising when they’re watching their favourite reality show on TV), then that’s what you’ll believe the whole industry consists of. Maybe, at least in terms of advertising, we should be handing Coles a few thank-you’s. Nothing would stir Woollies into action more than some public bouquets being handed to their one & only arch rival. Still don’t know what to do about the K-Mart decision to shelve Mt Isa rodeo sponsorship due to Animals Australia lobbying. The win Animals Australia have had on this will only encourage them to increase their behind-the-scenes lobbying.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: