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20 years of change: it has been 20 years since the first Best of CAMA was hosted in Calgary, Alberta. This year, the show, touted as the "Academy Awards of Canadian Agrimarketing," returned to Calgary to celebrate excellence in agricultural communications. But a lot has changed in the 20 years since the first Best of CAMA, or has it?

Fashioned after the Best of NAMA awards, the first Best of CAMA (Canadian Agri-Marketing Association) was organized by the Calgary chapter to celebrate the efforts of the Canadian agrimarketing industry. That first show was very different from the ones hosted in recent years, but the reason for gathering has remained the same. CAMA has always created an environment in which professionals in the agricultural industry can network and socialize, and the Best of CAMA event is a perfect example. "This is the most important night of the year," says J. David Corry of FilmFarm. "You have one night when everyone is there and can network with the whole of the industry."

Putting on a show of this size is no small feat. "We receive tremendous support from the industry, which is what has allowed us to continue for as long as we have," says Brenda Trask of Trask & Associates. "Not only do they help us with sponsorship of the event, but also the number of entries we receive and the donations of time and services to help with judging and putting the show together are outstanding."

THE EVOLUTION

Over the years the event has grown and evolved. "Today we have far more categories than when we first started," says Trask. "There are categories for French language ads, not to mention the numerous Web-based categories." When the show first began in 1984, there were three classes of Best in Show winners; since then a fourth category, in Public Relations, has been added to reflect the shifts in the industry. Creating a positive image of agriculture for the public has become a priority in the ag industry. Whether it's a need to educate the public on animal welfare or rebuild a corporate image after a merger, keeping a positive public profile is top of mind for agrimarketers.

Technologies such as the World Wide Web, CD-ROM and e-mail have not only created new categories for judging but also have changed the way business is done. "In the past it could take up to a month to create a campaign. Now we can create a graphic on the computer, e-mail it to the client and have a response within minutes. We essentially have instant communications," says Rod Delahey of Heyday Communications. "It used to be if a client told you they wanted an ad for next week, you told them they were crazy. Now, when hard pressed, we have created an ad and sent it to press in 24 hours."

Not only has the speed at which the industry works changed but also the message that is communicated. "There are more and more producers today who have a university or college education. The language we use and the messages we send must be much more sophisticated now," says Delahey. This sentiment is echoed by Lynn Hewitt, executive director of the Ontario Chapter of CAMA. "Today you have to stay ahead of the game. Farmers are very smart. They have more education, and most are up on current technologies like the Internet and e-mail."

In the past, the agrimarketing industry had to rely on agricultural publications as the main method of communication. Today, most producers have far more exposure to mainstream media and should essentially be treated as mainstream consumers. This means that agrimarketers must work that much harder to create a meaningful campaign to attract the attention of their target audience.

"Brand marketing has become more important than in the past," says Joanne Hewitson of DuPont Canada. "Campaigns used to be focused around graphs and the molecular technology of a product. Now brands, and how customers feel about the brand, is where we place the focus."

Markets are also much more specialized. Companies today spend far more time and money executing direct marketing campaigns. Producers are segmented based on everything from total cropped acres to the number of animals they raise on their farms. But one thing hasn't changed. "Farmers are still busting their knuckles trying to make a living, but now we must be closer to the industry than ever as there are fewer farmers to communicate with," says Corry.

FINDING THE BEST OF THE BEST

In the past, CAMA has tried bringing in a panel of judges from the target audience (farmers), but this produced very different results when it came to selecting winners. "Farmers judge things very differently than your peers do. They are not concerned with the layout and the technical aspects of the ad," says Corry. "They pick winners based on emotion and instinct, something that really speaks to them."

Cheryl Sylvester of Kazoo Advertising captures the flavor of it: "This is the Academy Awards of agrimarketing, not the People's Choice Awards. You are judged by your peers for excellence in the craft of agrimarketing communications."

Part of the reason the Best of CAMA is so significant is that your peers judge you. "We look for a diverse mix of people when selecting judges," says Hewitt. "The judges should be a representative cross section of the industry."

So, what exactly are the judges looking for? "We are judging what makes good advertising," says Trask. The criteria on which the judges score when picking Best in Show are creative appeal, stopping power, clarity of message and the ability to meet the communications objectives stated in the entry. Best in Show winners are ads that are simple, relevant and memorable," says Hewitson. "You know that the advertiser just gets it."

But it is not always the high budget glossy campaign that steals the show--sometimes there are upsets. "I can remember a show in the early '90s where one of the biggest winners was a two-color ad. It doesn't have to be a big splashy ad to get the message out," says Hewitt. Another aspect that makes a good Best in Show winner is the ability to strike a chord with the judges. "After looking at hundreds of entries, a unique ad that can give me a chuckle really stands out from the crowd," says Delahey.

The theme for this year's Best of CAMA is 20 Years of Change, and nothing could be more appropriate. Canadian agrimarketing has undergone mind-blowing advancements in technology and has had to keep pace and compete with mainstream media. It is not easy to capture the attention of a producer with so many distractions in today's modern world. But that's what the Best of CAMA is all about--celebrating the achievements of the Canadian agrimarketing industry. "This night is all about recognition," says Trask.

Favorite Best In Shows

J. David Corry, FilmFarm:

"My favorite winner was aventis' TV ad where the farmer returns his canola plants to the dealership because they didn't perform."

Cheryl Sylvester, Kazoo Advertising:

"I am going to get personal. My favorite Best in Show winners were the Roundup ad series from 1992. The ads showed a pterodactyl flying off with a John Deere tractor in one, and a giant grasshopper sitting on a farmer's head in another, and a giant rooster sticking its head out of the barn in the third ad of the series."

Joanne Hewitson, DuPont:

"I really liked the biotech ads that wont last year because they were such a good move by the industry. They were fantastic. I also really like the 'Grandma doesn't like smut' Raxil ad."

Brenda Trask, Trask & Associates:

"I have to think about that one. My favorite Best in Show winner would be the Roundup campaign with the rooster."

Lindsay Ostash is marketing coordinator at Issues Ink, a communications company based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which publishes Germination, Manure Matters and other agricultural magazines.
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Title Annotation:Canadian Agri-Marketing Association awards
Author:Ostash, Lindsay
Publication:Agri Marketing
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:1267
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