The TV ad the supermarket mafia won’t let you see.

13th November 2017

Raising our awareness

This is the story of how we tried to get on TV against the weight of the supermarket heavyweights. To spread the word about Farmdrop we’re stepping lightly into traditional advertising channels. With so many great stories, a strong part of our marketing armoury is comparing our lovingly-made produce to mass-produced food made by supermarkets.

Taking a shot at the incumbent in a piece of advertising can be a tricky business. Advertising regulators are much happier for brands to sell the virtues of their own product rather than knock the failings of the incumbents. Big advertisers like telecoms, banks and supermarkets spend bags of money on advertising. And media owners love bags of money.

The media for start-ups.

Transport for London’s media owner Exterion have become the darling for start-up brands. Look in any tube carriage and you’ll find a bunch of emerging brands. To their credit Exterion let an advertiser have a strong point of view. On tube cards we’ve alluded to the horsemeat scandal, supermarket fake farms and the abhorrent conditions supermarkets are farming chickens.

Introducing the TV overlords

TV advertising approval however remains in the world of letters written with a quill, sealed wax and sent by horseback. All TV advertising goes through a regulatory body called Clearcast. Clearcast is funded by commercial stations and commercial stations are funded by big advertisers like supermarkets.

Getting Farmdrop on TV

Farmdrop wont be advertising on the X-Factor final any time soon, however we bought a small test spend targeted to Bristol and Bath using Sky Adsmart. Adsmart promises targeted programmatic buying through their TV set top box: all the benefit of TV stature with the agility of online media. But unlike online media, the ad must still go through Clearcast approval.

We decided to simply re-cut an online film we shot last year and add a voice over with a nice endorsement from The Independent newspaper. Here’s what we submitted for approval….

The feedback

The first point of Clearcast feedback raised some eyebrows here….

If there’s one thing supermarkets do expertly it’s cherry pick their best producers. To cite just one recent example, Lidl have very successfully shown mussels lovingly harvested by hand in the Scottish lochs. At the same time they have been caught up in the controversy of mass produced chickens which have been relabelled between supermarkets, and reimagined kill dates.

Proving that our producers are not “cherry picked” was not too difficult, but the next one proved a real problem. We suspected that quoting The Independent may be problematic. We hadn’t asked their permission, we were using their logo etc. But this left us baffled…

The rebuttal

We weren’t about to accept this. A healthy letter of rebuttal was scripted and sent via carrier pigeon to the Clearcast offices…

No means no.

Clearcast weren’t backing down. It was non-negotiable. Farmdrop is not a replacement for a supermarket. And that was that. With our tail between our legs we re-scripted the TV ad without mentioning supermarkets at all. The weight of the supermarket advertising spend had spoken.

Bring on the supermarket Christmas TV spots. No doubt they’ll be rolling their mass-produced food practices in glitter for the festive season, and that will be just fine for advertising regulators and media owners.

Discover how the supermarket heavyweights mislead consumers with packaging, so called sourdough breadegg labelling and fresh chicken.

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