BBC Global News
Corteva Agriscience: Follow the food season 2
Off the back of season 1 of Follow The Food, a TV documentary series and digital hub in association with Corteva Agriscience, Ogilvy Entertainment and the client came back to BBC StoryWorks and renewed for season 2. The company was one year old and wanted to build upon the brand equity from the original partnership. The global population is growing and we’ll have to produce more food in the next 30 years than the whole history of humanity, all whilst responding to challenges such as climate change and soil loss. Corteva Agriscience wanted one of the most important people in our food system, the consumer, to be mindful of their carbon footprint and to make small changes in what they buy and eat. There was a heightened audience interest in food production and supply chains as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, when millions of people experienced food shortages for the first time in their lifetime.
Active in 140 countries and with a purpose to enrich the lives of farmers through to consumers, Corteva Agriscience had been diligently managing the coronavirus crisis from the start. The trend for tech such as agricultural drones had only accelerated. Now was an opportune moment to promote the brand as a leader, there to help meet the challenges facing decision makers in the food and farming sectors, with a particular KPI to target the North American green belt and Brazil.
Following season 1, the BBC and Corteva Agriscience wanted to make improvements, in particular to grow engagement with the digital content on BBC.com and focus on communicating the partnership to Corteva Agriscience’s 20,000 employees. Also, Season 1 had used a roster of presenters for the series and it was felt that audiences didn’t connect as well as they might do to just one host.
The Creative Solution
The solution was a second run of eight 23 minute episodes of Follow The Food on BBC World News and a digital hub on BBC.com, offering supplementary articles, video and interactive features. The focus of the content remained where our food comes from and how this might change in the near future with new technologies, all set against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic.
Each episode tackled one major food challenge, such as how do we diversify plants beyond staple crops, how do we encourage young people to go into farming and how do we cultivate more food with less fertile ground. Powerful storytelling was used to take our audiences on a journey from ‘field to fork’, with two or three case studies per episode from companies such as Zawadi Coffee in Kenya (enabling women to sell beans direct to suppliers), La Caverne in Paris (an urban farm growing produce beneath the streets) and Plantalyzer in the Netherlands (using AI and data analysis to provide per-plant advice).
The series as a whole visited over 25 of these global projects. The new presenter, renowned botanist James Wong, filmed some of the series pre-pandemic on-location, however production had to be switched midway through. James was filmed in more UK locations, including Kew Gardens where he investigated the battle to future-proof the Cavendish banana and Harper Adams University, where machines grow crops autonomously without operators driving them. This led to discovering companies which would otherwise have been overlooked. The BBC worked with production company Twofour, pivoting to research and film any outstanding global stories with local production teams, lowering the carbon emissions of making the series. Running in conjunction with the TV content, an online hub on BBC.com allowed users to catch-up with episodes and featured a long-read article supplementing each episode. It was decided the online content should build upon the topics featured in the programmes, rather than simply replicate it. A mix of text, images and video was used alongside dynamic scrolling.
Additionally, users could calculate the environmental impact of their food using an online calculator, which the BBC developed in association with the University of Oxford. Selecting which proteins, fruits, starchy foods and drinks they consume gave a calculation of CO2 and what the amount equated to, for example in terms of miles in a car. This was designed to ‘hit home’ with users about the food choices they make.
The Media/Content Amplification Solution
Corteva Agriscience came to the BBC because of its global distribution; BBC World News reaches 454m households in more than 200 countries and territories and 150 million unique browsers visit BBC.com per month. Sponsorship billboards ran before and after each programme and also a series of 2 minute branded content ‘mini doc’ films ran on the channel and were positioned alongside each episode in the online hub, taking the brand to a huge audience. Follow the Food seamlessly integrated with audience user journeys on BBC.com, so they were naturally directed to the content. Corteva Agriscience branded traffic drivers, linking to the Follow The Food hub, were placed across contextually relevant sites including BBC Future and the international BBC homepage. Audience and geo-targeting (including to the US green belt) was applied.
BBC Reel, the video site devoted to the BBC’s best visual storytelling, also featured a playlist of all the TV episodes, offering another way to discover.
Mindful of the KPI to reach North American audiences and that 61% consume BBC content on mobile, the hub was adapted to show the content in an accessible way. There was a ‘mobile first’ approach – dynamic articles were simplified and page loading became much faster than the previous season.
New for 2021, an OOH campaign ran in a number of US states close to Corteva Agriscience offices and in Washington an ad van playing the series trailer drove past key sites inc the White House and food outlets. The content was also amplified to Corteva employees across their staff intranet and through a live all-staff zoom session, where Corteva’s CEO Jim Collins discussed the series with James Wong.
An enhanced PR campaign for season 2 saw a specialist agriculture PR company work on the BBC’s behalf to target agribusiness and food production titles.
In addition to the BBC’s own social media promotion across @BBCWorld, @BBC_Future, @BBC StoryWorks and @BotanyGeek (James Wong), Corteva Agriscience also featured Follow The Food across their accounts. All the companies and contributors who had featured in the series were sent assets to promote it across their own social media channels too.
Finally, syndication extended reach beyond the BBC audience. Follow the Food appeared on other relevant platforms in key target regions such as The Rural Channel in the US and Canal Rural in Brazil. All platforms showed the content with Corteva Agriscience’s sponsorship accreditation intact, to further promote the association.
In Jan-March 2021, Season 2 was watched by over 35 million people worldwide. The Follow The Food digital hub had 1.5 million unique users over the duration of the 8 weeks the series aired. This was an 89% increase from season 1. Using the online articles to build upon what was covered in the TV show clearly drove engagement; dwell time, based on a benchmark of 120 seconds for an average BBC article, went as high as over 7 minutes for the article ‘How to bring life to dying soils’. The mix of imagery, text and video per article increased average scroll depth, with 47% scrolling down more than 50% of the page. There were over 92,000 engagements with the interactive food calculator; people actively calculating and considering their own carbon impact.
The amplification worked – the traffic drivers to the hub saw Brazil hit a 0.21 CTR, the US greenbelt outperformed the rest of the US with a 0.28 CTR and there were strong performances from Italy, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa, all important markets for the client.
The PR campaign resulted in 60 pieces of coverage across 34 agribusiness and food production publications based in 10 different countries and the OOH campaign had a reach of over 5 million people.
There were some high-level twitter mentions of the series from United Nations offices, including the Food and Afri Organisation of the UN (who lead efforts to defeat hunger), Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Other organisations such as Connect4Climate, who drive climate action and Fairtrade Africa, who support small-scale farmers, tweeted too. The Follow The Food hub had links to Corteva Agriscience’s own website and during the course of the series there were over 5000 visits tracked.