How Greenpeace is using satire to call out NZ Dairy Bosses on their outrageous billboard.

You can't miss it. Even at night. The Fonterra billboard bores down through your windscreen with sunny insistence. It strikes you the moment you leave Auckland airport and head into the city. A bold statement designed to make New Zealanders proud and put overseas visitors on notice about the clean green nature of the country they’ve just landed in.

Fonterra billboard

Welcome it says, to the home of pure dairy. Kind of sickening.

A visceral reaction to this blunt force PR is the motivation for the latest film from Greenpeace. It’s a parody that’s been visited upon the New Zealand Dairy Leadership over the last two weeks. We felt we had to act on the yawning disconnect between the billboard and the lived (and swimmed) reality of kiwis. That’s putting it politely. In less restrained language it’s nothing short of an outright lie.

Not that there is anything impure about the products - the milk and cheese and butter. But Big Dairy’s by-products - sediment, nitrates and e.coli in our rivers, lakes and aquifers make this billboard with its clean green landscape an “act of pure fiction.”

The other thing about the Fonterra ad is that it seems to be completely oblivious to recent history. Totally blind to the furore which has been going on since the start of last summer. Like they have turned the clock back to a time when Intensive Dairy Farming and the Environment skipped hand and hand together through the meadows.

It’s almost as if the freshwater crisis never happened. That Greenpeace never won the ASA case over the controversial dirty rivers TV ad, that Nick Smith was never mercilessly lampooned over bungled attempts to introduce water standards and that one international report after another didn’t tell us we were breaching our environmental boundaries by expanding intensive dairying. As the devious penguins in the kids movie Madagascar say: “You didn’t see anything”.

The airport advertisement stands as a bizarre exercise in denial, a throwback to the innocent days of the 100% pure ads for New Zealand Tourism. The ones that have been so mercilessly torn to shreds by comedians and rejected by anyone with an ounce of knowledge about New Zealand's environmental record.

This trip down memory lane also provided the inspiration for the look of our parody. We decided to make a sixty second spoof campaign ad - in the style of a nineties beer or milk commercial. Importantly it would take the billboard’s message of Pure Dairy to its natural conclusion. It would show the purity of the water that goes into the dairy model and then reflect the state of the water that comes out.

Using a very gravelly voiceover, rousing orchestral music and rich cinematography, it traces the journey of a droplet leaving a glacier in the southern alps and making its way downstream through forests and lakes into underground aquifers. There it is pumped out of the ground and sprayed on the paddocks to grow grass, making the world’s purest dairy. Then everything we don”t use we give back. The last three shots show a river dead from algal bloom caused by nitrates from big dairy. The final shot shows a mocked up ‘Pure NZ Dairy’ logo that borrows elements from various Big Dairy brands.

We used parody to hold the doublespeak of the Dairy Leadership up to the light. To expose how their tone deaf denial of environmental consequence is so out of step with the mood of the country.

The way in which we decided to launch the new film was completely in keeping with the satirical context. We wanted to emulate the PR machinery of the dairy leadership which produced the billboard in the first place.

So we created a fictional Twitter persona “Pure NZ Dairy Story” which would seek to rehabilitate the flagging reputation of the dairy industry. To this end the author of the account would embark on a mission with a cinematographer, making a TV ad to silence the dairy naysayers and #makedairygreatagain.

 

The author was well-intentioned but kind of goofy and not that good at social media.

 

… prone to over using bad hashtags:

 

He gathered more than 1000 followers on twitter including many of the Dairy Leadership and said some pretty outrageous stuff ...

 

… we wanted it to be dripping in satire.

 

And as with all good satire, some people cottoned on straight away, some people didn’t. Some people were outraged, others were not. 

Some appreciated it, some did not. 

But now the secret’s out and we proudly claim it.

The film is a collaboration between Greenpeace New Zealand and kiwi film maker Andrew Blackman. You might have also detected the voice of radio personality Mark Perry. Both of them gave their time for free. As did many others, because of their belief in the cause.

Unlike the mega bucks spent by Fonterra on their billboards and television ads to ensure the social licence of intensive dairying in New Zealand, this film was made possible by donations of hireage, film gear, music composition and post production facilities from people who care about protecting our precious waterways.

It’s important to note that the subject of this satire/parody is not individual farmers, many of whom are doing a great job protecting the environment, but their leadership which seems so firmly lodged in the past.

Incidentally, I was told by an ad guy who worked on the original 100 % campaign that NZ Tourism is distancing itself from that optimistic claim. It’s understood the client is now revamping its message from 100% purity towards the idea of a “100 % pure experience.” Reality bites.

We look forward to the response from the ‘Pure Dairy Leadership’ as we challenge them to take a peek in the mirror and adjust their own grasp.  Maybe they need to take a long hard look at themselves and what they represent. A different looking-glass might help.  One that didn’t keep telling them that their industry is “the fairest of them all”. 

Here's the video, please share!