Every time Patricia Jewell sees a certain television ad for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, she leaves the room.
The ad depicts an older farmer lovingly picking just the right ears of corn, even looking at each ear under a magnifying glass to remove errant silk with tweezers. He fills a bushel basket with his best ears and heads to the Kellogg’s office, hoping his corn is good enough to be chosen for their cereal.
He gets tossed out. By a rooster.
“That’s just unreal,” fumes the Kinsman farm woman. “I just can’t believe this. Kellogg’s is just like any other processor who buys a commodity at the right price, and they have the nerve to promote they’re only picking the ‘best’ and then throw the farmer out the door. It’s just not right.”
Farmers are struggling every day, she added, and to air a commercial that shows a farmer getting kicked out for trying to do his best is insulting.
And so the Trumbull County woman picked up the phone and called Kellogg’s to complain. Twice.
“They just sort of said a lot of people would look at the ad differently,” she reports of her conversations. “I think she was just hoping I’d accept some coupons and be happy.
“I have no desire to buy their products,” Jewell declares. “And the only cereal we used to eat were Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Kellogg’s Mini Wheats.”
Jewell is a woman after my own heart. I have been known to fire off a letter of my own when ads depict agriculture in a less than desirable light. To the companies’ credit, my letters usually get answered; one even came from a company president. The bad news is that some of my letters have gone to agribusinesses that should have known better, like Agway and Landmark Genetics.
I decided to call Kellogg’s myself. The senior manager of marketing and communication for the cereal division said the ad was intended to use humor to convey the high standards the company sets for high quality ingredients in its cereal. It was also the first time Corn Flakes’ spokescharacter “Corny” came to life, conducting the inspections.
The ad, which is no longer running, was supposed to be a creative way of illustrating Corn Flakes’ quality control.
Now, someone out there is probably thinking “lighten up!” or “this is not the most important thing happening in agriculture right now.” And that someone has valid comments.
But farmers have a good thing going with public sentiment. We are seen as good caretakers of our livestock and our natural resources; we are seen as ‘real people’, honest and full of common sense. While corn growers obviously don’t inspect each ear for pieces of silk, they do spend hours upon hours planting, scouting and harvesting.
“Farmers need a good laugh to get by in today’s market, but not at the expense of their self-respect,” Jewell said.