ASHLAND, OR, May 27, 2014 – Family farmers in Jackson County, Oregon last week won a major David and Goliath battle against Monsanto, DuPont, Dow and some of the world’s largest chemical companies when they banned the growing of genetically engineered crops in a landslide election victory. Voters in this fairly conservative county passed the GMO ban by an impressive 2-to-1 margin despite being outspent by an opposition campaign that flooded the small county with close to $1 million in spending. For context, the largest previous record for a county election campaign was just over $100,000.
The coalition of family farmers and local food advocates knew that an important part of winning this lopsided election battle would be to have a TV ad presence that was so effective it could withstand the unprecedented deluge of opposition advertising orchestrated by one of the top U.S. political consulting firms. They approached 5M Society, an Ashland based creative agency, for help.
“We knew we had to have television ads that would connect with voters in way that was so compelling that they would stand up despite an onslaught of opposition ads designed to scare voters into opposing our measure,” explains farmer Elise Higley, Director of the Our Family Farms Coalition. “The ads 5M Society created were nothing short of magic. They gave our campaign a voice that resonated across all political boundaries and helped us set a precedent that is now literally echoing in the news around the world.”
5M Society crafted a trio of concise, engaging, information-rich TV spots using real local farmers and residents. The ads showed area farmers and citizens eloquently explaining how genetically engineered crops contaminate traditional crops on nearby farms. The ads had to convey the threats family farmers faced from genetically engineered crops while also debunking the opposition’s claims that the measure would have major economic impacts and harm those who were growing genetically engineered crops.
“Above all, the focus of the ad campaign was to communicate the authentic voice of the farmers and residents of Jackson County,” said 5M Society’s Founder, Michele Carnes Ellis. “The opposition tried to paint the supporters of the ban as just a ‘small group of hippie farmers’ and ‘liberal activists’. This just wasn’t the case and we were able to use the ads to show the real diversity of farmers and local residents that were supporting the measure.”
The first ad featured a local farmer named Steve who wearing a Pendleton plaid explained how GMO-pollen drift contaminated traditional crops while standing at a fence property line. This strong image and simple articulation of a complex issue helped define and explain the campaign from the outset. The second spot featured a cross section of voters including a business owner, taxpayer, mother, democrat and republican farmer, and highlighted the broad support the campaign needed to keep to win the campaign.
The final spot which The Nation called, “one of the most effective ads” of the campaign, featured one of the largest farmers in the county and his wife explaining that they would no longer grow genetically engineered crops and were instead supporting a yes vote on the measure. “When this ad hit it was all anyone was talking about,” added Higley. “It really debunked the opposition’s main arguments but it was also beautiful and genuine in a way that had a bigger effect than we could have ever hoped for.”
“This was not a typical political ad campaign,” explained Carnes Ellis who called in talents from Southern Oregon Film and Television to work gratis or at reduced rates on what was seen as a nationally precedent-setting political effort. “It was a truth campaign and the truth won.”
"From concept to final production, 5M Society was amazing to work with and offered a level of creativity and experience that was incredible,” added Higley. A creative and film production executive for two decades in Los Angeles, Carnes Ellis has lived in S. Oregon for eight years. 5M Society is a full service, fully integrated creative agency with an award winning collective of directors, animators, writers, designers and fence jumpers.
The GMO crop ban campaign: https://vimeo.com/album/2856629
Contact: Michele Carnes Ellis