I work in advertising and have done for 20 years, most recently at the helm of New Zealand's best-connected ad agency, The Goat Farm. I've helped make thousands of ads and, like all of us, I've been exposed to probably millions in my lifetime. It's rare, then, for an ad to stop me in my tracks.
Last week, though, a poster campaign did just that. Simple, two-dimensional illustrations. Limited, muted colour palette. The name of the company written simply where the logo might usually go. Beautifully short headlines: Cool again. Say cheese. Just chill. Butter is back.
The posters were for Fonterra, of course. As a fan of both great advertising and most things that come from a cow (including steak) they made me happy every time I walked or drove past them.
Not everyone, predictably, shared my affection.
Within days of the posters going up, some in my neighbourhood had been modified by people who thought Fonterra should be advertising animal cruelty or environmental impact rather than the good things about dairy. (As an ad guy I couldn't help noting the terrible typesetting on the stuck-on replacement headlines... it was hard to know if palm kernel or poor kerning was the greater disaster.)
Online, more than one commentator drew a line from the posters' retro design style to that bucolic past when New Zealand only had 12 cows and we all spent our summers (which were nicer and longer than modern ones) swimming in crystal clear rivers.
As a dairy consumer it makes me feel good about my choices.
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The prevailing sentiment seemed to be outrage that Fonterra had dared to advertise its products without addressing the cost to the environment of making them.
This is nonsense, of course. If that logic held true then we should equally expect Greenpeace advertising to address the chilled deliciousness of milk cold from the fridge, or the sensory pleasures of hot melted butter dribbling from a freshly toasted hot cross bun.
Advertising isn't journalism. It represents a point of view. While it should always be honest, it doesn't require balance.
And that's why I like Fonterra's campaign. It's simple. It's true. It's confident and assertive. As a dairy consumer it makes me feel good about my choices. And if I were a dairy farmer I'd be writing to Fonterra and demanding that whoever came up with it gets a little bit extra in their envelope come bonus time.