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Best & Brightest Special Report: Farmers' market just the place for Kavanaugh

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Every media strategist has challenges. But working in the agricultural marketplace, Kathy Kavanaugh, associate media director at Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland, Rochester, N.Y., has to deal with some pretty dire conditions. As media strategist for DuPont Crop Protection products, she must overcome such things as: a shrinking market as farms consolidate, natural disasters (a perfect campaign can be ruined by a season-long drought) and a penny-pinching target audience that's often segmented by county and spends most of its time outdoors.

Yet she is right where she wants to be. "I've worked on a lot of other accounts," Kavanaugh said. "I love the whole idea of farming and the family farm. That's why I've stayed."

She is also drawn to the intricacies that make the market unique in the b-to-b segment. Her staple buys include publications such as Farm Journal, Successful Farming and Progressive Farmer, which work with media planners to split buys for a myriad of crop regions. One publication, for example, may publish close to 1,000 different versions of a monthly issue, Kavanaugh said. "The ag publishing folks are very proud of that because you don't see that in other b-to-b [publications]," she said.

Kavanaugh also relies upon extensive radio campaigns with stations that run daily regional farm reports, and also works with TV networks that have farm programming.

She has dabbled in new media, too.

After placing some Internet banner ads, she found growers remarkably responsive to giveaways. Yet with a target audience with a median age of 50-plus, the Internet hasn't caught fire. And while larger, younger and progressive farmers have begun to use it, Kavanaugh said, she believes they only log on to a few tried-and-true sites.

"Farmers are busy people," she said. "They don't have a lot of time to sit down and log on to a computer." To learn about ag Web site usage, she joined the Agribusiness Internet Advertising Committee, a group of ad and media folk working to set audience measurement standards.

In her role, Kavanaugh has overseen media plans for the product launches of several DuPont herbicides and created comprehensive map-based methods of reporting media buys for the $8.5 million account.

She relishes the ag media community, where experience counts and once in, people tend to stay. And even with a shrinking market, Kavanaugh doesn't see the future of ag media planning as stagnant. "As the younger farmers come on board ... the Internet will become more of a focus point," she said. "I think that's going to be exciting. I think you'll see a change."

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