For Yeo Valley coming up with its eagerly awaited follow up TV ad was a bit like unleashing that notoriously difficult second album. After the unprecedented, stratospheric success of last year’s rap number, where to go next?
Yeo Valley’s marketing director Ben Cull says: ‘Of course we were worried. We didn’t want to be a one hit wonder but we’d set the bar so high with the last one. We were almost too good.’
Cut to last Saturday night when four handsome, muscle-bound Take That impersonators – aka Yeo’s farmer boyband The Churned – took to our screens with their schmaltzy, cutesy song about sustainable farming.
They needn’t have worried. The new ad trended on Twitter immediately and ‘Forever’ entered the itunes charts at No 33 and even made the top 70.
The Yeo Valley story is a heartwarming one. Roger and Mary Mead bought Holt Farm in Somerset’s Mendip Valley in 1961. They soon realised that the fertile, rich land was nectar for cows and decided to specialise in dairy farming. Over the years they became 100 per cent organic and, as the business grew, the Meads began to employ other local organic farmers. Yeo Valley now have two herds of around 400 pedigree Friesians which Mary still looks after– and yes, the cows all have names.
Last year, they decided it was time to push organic into the mainstream.
It seems astonishing now that the infamous rap was their first foray into TV advertising.
Yeo Valley brought in hipster ad agency BBH who in turn recruited the pop video director Julian Lutz , who is so uber-cool he’s known simply as X (past hit videos include Jay Z and Rihanna). They also lobbed £5 million into the campaign and secured a prime time slot during the X Factor live shows.
The gamble paid off. Those crotch-grabbing Barbour wearing farmers ricocheted into the public consciousness; overnight the Yeo Valley ad went global.
The company’s sales rocketed by 15 per cent yet, more than this, its success should be measured for making British farming cool in the middle of a recession.
‘We were trying to put the soul back into farming,’ says Cull. ‘We knew what our story was and we knew that we wanted to tell it through rap.’
Coming up with a boyband was another stroke of genius and afforded Ben Cull his own X Factor moment.
The boys – all actors – went through several auditions before being whittled down to the final four.
‘We got them down to eight and then we had to decide which of them would work best together as a boy band. I felt a bit like Simon Cowell.’
Understanding the X Factor phenomenon has been critical to Yeo Valley’s success.
Cull says: “It draws together a range of generations, it’s all about family bonding on a Saturday night so it made sense to come up with an epic ad that was good entertainment.’
The irony is that The Churned’s song and cheesy dance routine was more talked about on Facebook and Twiter than all the X Factor contestants put together.
There have even been calls to have The Churned performing on X Factor.
Cull says: “maybe we’ll talk to Gary and Simon about that.’
Ultimately, though, Yeo Valley has simply employed the tools of irony and humour to promote its underlying message: sustainable organic farming is the future.
“Ultimately we want people to support sustainable British farming and we want to make organic relevant. Everyone deserves to eat good food.’
Yeo Valley, with its mix of tradition and foresight, creativity and earthiness, perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the West Country.
Or as the boys from The Churned might say: “Be a little funky, choose the West Country.'
Watch behind the scenes footage of the latest ad here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGGBtbH8RN0
And see the Forever ad campaign again here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTrG7mpb61U