International Vegetarian Union (IVU)

8 - 14th November 2004
Costão do Santinho Resort & Spa
Santinho Beach - Florianópolis - Brazil

Sowing Seeds for a Vegetarian Future :
Smiling our Way to Success:

Positive campaigns that work

a talk by Tina Fox
Chief Executive, Vegetarian Society UK

Note: Tina says "these are only guidelines as I ad lib a lot"


In the years since the founding of the Vegetarian Society in 1847 the vegetarian scene in the UK and beyond has changed a great deal, with a real acceleration to these changes in the last 5 to 10 years. This brief presentation aims to cover the changes in the perception of the diet, and the Society's focus.

I am pleased to say however that one thing remains fairly unchanged and that is motivation for accepting a vegetarian diet. Although health and, to a lesser degree, environmental factors, have influenced some people's decision to take the veggie challenge, the primary motivation for adopting the diet in the UK is still the one that I am sure motivates most people attending this event: compassion. In the UK we have found in recent years that it is much more useful to awaken and reinforce such motivation using humour and empowerment rather than negative images that invoke guilt. This has led to Mintel ( Marketing intelligence) in 2001 coining a new term "vegetarian appreciators" apparently 49% of the UK's population falls into this category of enjoying vegetarian food occasionally or regularly but they are not yet fully veggie. Obviously this is something we aim to change but it is a good starting point.

Over the years of its existence the Society has had to evolve its techniques and methods to match the times whilst retaining its core mission - to convert all possible to the vegetarian diet and to support those who have already taken this compassionate step.

Initially much of our material was rather hard hitting and, dare I say it, off putting to anyone not yet committed to the cause and even to some who were. Often those convinced of the vegetarian argument thought that we only had to show someone a picture of a suffering or dying animal and they would be similarly converted. Unfortunately it does not work that way as people often feel uncomfortable with the truth and will try to avoid such images. By bringing humour into the equation and supporting would be vegetarians instead of alienating them we find we get a much better response and the press, for example, always turn to us for advice and stories. One of early campaigns for NVW 1996 used a series of vegetable pictures to get home a message - the tomato that didn't suffer in transit as animals do, the orgasmic courgette and the pumpkin which could only give you a heart attack as part of Halloween - my personal favourite. (show). They are often very simple images but with a strong message.

Early in 1998 we produced a rather risqué advert for youth magazines, after having it duly approved by the charity commission making the point that all vegetarians weren't wimpy and sentimental but full of energy and vitality, it depicts a young man with slashes in his shirt but looking rather pleased about it.

The "steamy veg" cinema ad of June 98, sponsored by the Co-operative Bank, portraying the vegetarian diet as a healthy and sexy one and the humorous onions cinema ad shown with Babe 2 in December1999 are a far cry from the sort of campaigns put out even 5 years ago.

The steamy veg cinema ad, called "Hot Dinner" was initially developed for the society by OglivyOne advertising agency and funded by the Co-operative Bank. We were uncertain at first if the Co-op would go for such a lively image but they loved it and so did all the cinema goers and the media. In a leaflet distributed to their customers the Co-op described the positive flavour of the ad and the point that changing to a more sustainable diet can be fun. Although it is only 40 seconds long it makes quite an impact and achieved its aim of making the public think about food in a different way. In our press work we linked the ad to evidence from the USA that indicated that a diet with no meat but rich in fruit and vegetables could be a the key to a healthy sex life as high meat and high cholesterol can cause blockages in arteries not only to the heart but also to the genitals. Surprisingly despite its very suggestive content it was one of the few things we have done that we didn't get complaints to the advertising standards authority!

I showed the video to a group of prison officers who I was talking to about catering and it really broke the ice and shattered the image of vegetarians as stuffy do gooders. The video has also had some limited showings in the USA thanks to PETA and other groups.

The next batch of ads, which include the Onions cinema ad were also developed free for the Society, by Simon Haynes and Andy Bell of Euro RSCG and in addition we also produced billboard advertising which played on the myth that vegetables feel pain and talked about poking the eyes out of potatoes and digging out the innards of peas. The idea was to make consumers confront the reality of their food choices so that they could leave a good taste in their mouth by going veggie. ( show cards)

The change in focus has also made us more able to work closer with our licence holders so that Tesco sponsored NVW in 1997, in 1999 the McCartney brand sponsored NVW with the breakout theme, the NVW literature featured a 16ft fork sculpture with bent tines, inviting people to break out of their eating habits and this received excellent publicity. We also had a full scale model of this at our vegfest celebration that year which provided some lovely images.

In 2000 a number of companies, including our publisher, Harper Collins, and Dalepak, one of our major clients, sponsored our "veggie bus" which went out on the road giving examples of good veggie food , raising the press profile and giving information to an every hungry public. In 2000 we also focussed on the healthy male so we produced some trendy cards to put in doctors surgeries etc.

In 2001 Tesco again sponsored National Vegetarian Week The theme for the week was "Refresh the Menu" and in addition we produced a series of posters teasing the general public about unfamiliar foods for example " Halloumi - that's in Greece isn't it?", "Tamari - what team does he play for?" " how do I peel a tofu?" " Cannelloni - never really been into art myself". 2002's theme for NVW , to coincide with the Congress was easy to arrange - we focussed on the excitement and ease of global vegetarian cuisine and it must have been appealing as Sainsbury agreed to sponsor us and they launched in St Albans with celebrity chef Richard Cawley. 2003's vegetarian week was sponsored by Safeway but we returned to more serious themes this year and focussed on the veggie challenge and on producing materials, including recipe cards, for schools. In 2004 we decided not to have a major sponsor so we could work with all the supermarkets without alienating them and we worked with the Mushroom Bureau and Cauldron foods as "partners" instead. Again we focused on humour using our veg head cards and poster (show). 2005's themes have yet to be developed but we may well use the veg head theme again as it was very popular and had the strange side effect of selling more mushrooms!

We don't restrict this working only to NVW. For example we produced an interesting "sandwich shaped" leaflet with Marmite with recipes from our cookery school and Happydog, producers of vegetarian dog food, sponsored one of the staff's dog, Gertie, on an ascent up Ben Nevis. Members and the public alike love items for free so we often produce goody bags, product offers and competitions in our magazine or as direct mail or on our website, often the public are suspicious of something new and we aim to break down that initial resistance . In 2000 we had a lot of positive publicity as a long running soap, "Coronation St" introduced a vegetarian story line with the wife of the butcher feeding him veggie sausage casserole (to a recipe supplied by us) which he considered the best he had eaten!

Our most recent use of humour has been the current fish campaign when we focussed on the fact that many people seem to consider fish to be some kind of vegetable. It was launched in London with a community garden with carefully planted artificial fish and we had adverts in catering magazines which seem to have received a good reception and raised demand for our new creative catering pack. ( show cards, visuals and CC pack)
Positive working provides a win / win situation, companies who work with us benefit from our name and credibility (and the feel good factor) and we benefit in terms of income and increasing our profile. In addition the more companies we work with, the more companies potentially want to work with us. In the past the Society has produced a joint leaflet on nutrition with Sainsbury which widens the availability of our name to every one of their supermarkets in the country and which has led to links on their web site, and was updated for NVW 2001 and we also advised Burger King on their leaflet for vegetarians. Tesco also did a mailing for us in 2001 to over 200,000 vegetarian customers and featured the Society in their in house vegetarian recipe magazine and in 2003 we did a website competition with Linda McCartney Foods.

The Vegetarian Charity has also supported us with two new youth packs, a new youth nutrition video featuring a soundtrack from Moby and a nursery pack which is much needed as younger children often live on pizza in nurseries. ( show)

One of our most successful posters was one that wasn't even seen as the Red Hot Chilli Pepper poster Ad was banned by BR as being too suggestive and got us lots of free publicity in the process.

Apart from campaigns one of our most successful activities over the last few years has been our annual Awards. In 2001 for the very first time we had an Awards ceremony in London and rewarded the best guesthouse, restaurant, new product etc with exclusive accolades and logos from the Society. This was a very popular and successful event leading to a great deal of positive publicity for the movement and is now annual, the first was held at the Grosvenor House, the second at the Waldorf then we changed styles and the third and fourth have been held at Halloween in the Magic Circle. We give awards to the best vegetarian restaurant and other categories ( give examples - baby food, Brighton etc) to encourage best practice - this has worked very well and brought in very good media coverage particularly in trade and local press - everyone loves a winner. 2 years ago we introduced the imperfect world award for things veggies would love to eat and to inject some humour and potential controversy. The first years winner in 2003, Walker's cheese and onion crisps, reformulated after that and are now suitable for vegetarians. This year's winner is Smarties and it will be interesting to see if they react in the same positive way.


Even ten years ago anyone admitting to be vegetarian could be considered weird or cranky and was expected to wear sandals beads and a beard .However this view can hardly be maintained when Burger King used Frank Bruno the boxer to launch the veggie whopper and Granada services in 2000 used cricketer, Ian Botham to launch their McCartney range. Surveys show that vegetarians are now less likely to be seen these days are self denying and holier than thou, a view which has no doubt lost us many converts in the past, but are viewed as aspirational and enlightened, as people to be emulated. Films such as Babe and Babe 2, Pig in the City, and Chicken Run are helping people to make the link between a living animal and the meat on their plate to the detriment of the slaughter industry

In the new millennium people are starting to wake up to the meat industry's lies and cruelties and to choose the obvious alternative. The Society continues to put every effort into reaching this receptive audience, working with high profile celebrities (our patrons Rose Elliott, Jerome Flynn, Paul and Stella McCartney and Wendy Turner Webster) as well as other stars and with the commercial sector at any reasonable opportunity to spread the message in a palatable way. Flexibility is the key, it is important to be able to grasp opportunities when they present, definitely a case of they who hesitate are lost, as the media is a very fickle friend. Many organisations continue to put out the negative meat is murder image -we feel this can be counter productive as guilt is never a good enough motivation and self righteous indignation is not an appropriate tool for the 21st century. We owe it to the animals to be imaginative and positive in our outreach work and to be results orientated. This does not mean we have to compromise our principles or sell out, but we should use the modern tools at our disposal to sell an age old product - compassion. Solutions not problems are the key to success and we intend to laugh our way to a vegetarian future.

TRF 02.11.04 Brazil