Chesterfield, MO — We wear a pretty big black hat as an industry. The Harris Poll confirms it year after year. They’ve been measuring how the public perceives twenty-two of the nation’s largest industries since 1997. In that time, pharmaceutical companies have had the second biggest decline in reputation (right behind oil companies) – a 43-point slump in the number of people who say we’re doing a good job for customers.

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It’s no wonder. The only interactions most people have pharma are a long-wait on a customer service line, a discordant prime time television spot overrun with scary-sounding side effects, or a peek at a sales rep trying to get back to the sample closet (while they wait for their long-delayed doctors). What they don’t see is the tireless research, the personal commitment, the life-changing impact.

Farmers have a pretty similar story. Actually, they’re even less in control of their story than we are. Movies and books like Fast Food Nation and Food, Inc. paint a picture of a dangerous and unethical machine driven by profit and greed. Secret video footage by animal rights activists paints the entire industry with the behaviors of the truly bad actors among them.

So, they decided to tell their own story. In the same media as their detractors.

Their movie is called Farmland. It follows the lives of six young farmers – from an organic vegetable grower in California to a cattle rancher in Texas. The six share a belief that their profession is misunderstood. And, want a chance a show the world real life on the farm.

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The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance – made up of state farm bureaus and agribusiness giants like Monsanto – funded the film. But, it’s not strictly a PR piece. They hired Oscar-winning documentarian James Moll to tell the story of farmers and gave him full creative control to do it.

The reviews of Farmland are decidedly mixed. Some call it a puff piece, others see it as a sincere attempt to share another perspective.

But, what we love about it is the motivation – the desire to show, not tell. To be transparent and share stories in rich, long-form media.


Randy Krotz with the Alliance, described the film this way, “How to you get to Millennials? How do you get to a transparency generation? Let’s show them a little bit more about how their food is raised first hand.”

The need for transparency is definitely one of the biggest trends driving the expectations of younger consumers. People who rejected Facebook for its too-perfect profiles and embrace Snapchat, Vine and Twitter for their authenticity. Who have grown up watching promises turn into scandals and don’t believe the shiny happy ads anymore. For these buyers, transparency trumps quality, service, and often even price.

They want companies to get real.

Farmland is trying to do just that.

You can read more about the need for a little “wabi-sabi” and authenticity in our 2014 Consumer Trends Report:


2014 Consumer Trends from GSW

Posted by: Leigh Householder

Photo credits: Don Holtz

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.