Organic Valley Tells Its Quirky Origin Story and Tackles the Food Industry’s Greenwashing

Humanaut work explores the co-op's roots

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If a food company says its products are all-natural and eco-friendly, shouldn’t it have to back up its marketing promises and really walk the walk?
In a new campaign breaking this week, Organic Valley takes that challenge quite literally by putting fitness trackers on its cows and setting them off on their usual daily treks.
As it turns out, the bovines take more steps a day than most people, according to the spot. “Looking good, ladies,” says a voiceover, as the cattle frolics in a pasture.

Several ads in the series, under the tagline, “Call us crazy, but it’s working,” pointedly call out the current greenwashing trend where food and beverage brands make false claims about their manufacturing (no factory farming here!) or the health benefits of their products (better for you!).
The work, from agency Humanaut, stresses Organic Valley’s origin story as a Wisconsin-based farmer-run collective and its back-to-basics approach to producing milk, cheese, butter and eggs that shuns hormones, antibiotics, GMOs and toxic chemicals and pesticides.
Here’s the 2:43 anthem video, which explains the brand’s ethos:

“These days every brand is trying to seem more authentic, natural and farm-fresh, like they’re making the world a better place, even if they’re not,” said Tripp Hughes, Organic Valley’s director of brand management. “It makes things very confusing for customers trying to make better decisions about their food.”
The co-op, about 30 years old with 1 billion dollars in revenue last year, includes Amish farmers whose non-mechanized methods take more time (the spot “Good Food Is Slow Food” is dedicated to them). And its hands-on, small farmer route isn’t cheap (“Why Organic Food Costs More” explains the disparity between Organic Valley and mass-produced food).

Humanaut wanted to “put some stakes in the ground,” so to speak, and portray Organic Valley as “a very different kind of food company,” said David Littlejohn, the agency’s chief creative director. “This meant not being afraid to point out the things that make this farmer-owned organic cooperative unusual, weird and rough around the edges.”
Co-op founder George Siemon, the original “long-haired, shoeless, hippie farmer,” makes an appearance in an ad that describes his earth- and animal-first philosophy, considered radical several decades ago, and describes the initial branding of the company. (It happened when one farmer thought they should be called Organic Valley and everyone agreed, without consultants or brand experts, because “we’re not a very sophisticated bunch,” another founding farmer says.) Don’t expect any “innovations” like drone delivery or rainbow-colored cheese, in other words.
The campaign will run on TV, digital and social, following Humanaut’s earlier videos that hit a viral nerve for the brand with stunts like a pop-up shop that sold only half-and-half, a faux PSA that attempted to “Save the Bros” from the junk in their protein shakes, and a “Real Morning Report” that gave a hilarious peek into women’s actual hectic morning routines.

Client: Organic Valley
Agency: Humanaut
Campaign Title: Call Us Crazy, But It’s Working
Chief Creative Director: David Littlejohn
Chief Strategist: Andrew Clark
Agency Producer: Tommy Wilson
Account Director: Elizabeth Cates
Creative Director: Andy Pearson, Liza Behles
Copywriter: Andy Pearson, Liza Behles, Alana Questell
Design Director: Stephanie Gelabert
Art Director: Greg Dalbey
Designers: Carrie Warren, Coleson Amon
Animator: Bethany Maxfield
Project Manager: Hannah Chandler
Production Company: Humanaut Productions
Director: Dan Jacobs
Director of Photography: Sean Webley
Camera: Tyler Clements
2nd Camera: Clovis Siemon
Producer: Demetrius Nelson
Editing/Finishing: Annie Huntington
Editing/Finishing: Tyler Beasley / Fancy Rhino
Media Strategy: Chris Pyne / Junction 37
Media Buying: Amanda Liu, Christy Provines / Junction 37

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.