Improvement of poor and critical public receptivity to 63% positive regard.
The price we pay for meat
How can you get people enthusiastic about paying higher prices for their meat? And how do you persuade political parties to support a higher meat price, despite this formerly being framed and known as the very unpopular ‘meat tax’? Omnicom PR Group in the Netherlands partnered with the TAPP coalition on their mission to minimize the negative effects of meat consumption on people and planet. Focus: how can we deliver a complex message concerning our ‘daily’ piece of meat?
Together for our planet
According to national statistics, the total meat consumption in the Netherlands has started to increase slightly again over the past two years. Simultaneously, awareness is mounting among the general public regarding changing eating patterns, and specifically eating less meat. Reasons for this include personal health, environmental concerns, sustainability, animal welfare, etc. This paradox brought together a group of leading scientists, doctors, farmers, environmental activists, consumers and students. This group strives towards lower meat consumption based on more realistic – read higher -, pricing. Currently meat prices are kept too low, predominantly due to (European) subsidies. Price stunts in retail, denying a fair income for farmers, further contribute to the problem. This missed potential income would enable farmers to focus on best practices in animal welfare and sustainable production.
The TAPP (True Animal Protein Pricing) coalition – was born on a mission.
How to sell a meat tax?
TAPP’s point of view: a price mechanism, namely higher prices and less buying, is needed to actually change public behavior towards decreasing meat consumption. TAPP had their plans thoroughly calculated by CE Delft, a prominent Dutch research agency, and a meat tax was the outcome. Next the question was: How can we get Dutch politicians to embrace the concept of meat taxation?
Bridging, bridging, bridging
‘Meat tax’ is a term that has become slaughtered in the Dutch national popular media over the years. The present TAPP members could be perceived as slightly leftwing activists and upper class people, not representing society as a whole. TAPP is truly a coalition of various organizations, so alignment proved a challenge when it came to consistent actions and messaging. This was our working situation.
Omnicom PR Group analyzed the complex CE Delft calculations and their advice for a meat taxation. The aim of our analysis was to find credible proof points, introduce understandable language and, most importantly, find ways to create support bridging both society and politics. This bridging approach was based on our research on recent political points of view, and our extensive consumer knowledge on sustainability, food, and change.
Broaden the sympathy
The Dutch are known for being opposed to being told what to do. On the other hand, they are also known for their rationality and sense of fairness. Hence, we advised to bid farewell to the negative phrase ‘meat taxation’ and welcome ‘a fair meat price’ (‘Eerlijke vleesprijs’ in Dutch).
We remodeled the complex CE-taxation scheme into one clear infographic, showing benefits for everyone in our varied society. This infographic became the solid base for all of our future-bridging messaging, which appeals to all 17 million Dutch citizens, instead of only a few NGOs or activists.
We strategically decided not to start with political lobbying, but instead to turn around the approach towards a new meat pricing legislation: we endeavored to first convince the general public, and then to use this public support, alongside media pressure, as strong leverage towards politicians.
In the Parliamentary pressroom
We commissioned a survey, which showed that more than half of the Dutch followed the logic of fairness’. They would pay more for meat if the additional price would flow back as benefits for all. The emotion associated with fairness worked. We organized a launching moment of the ‘Eerlijke vleesprijs’ in the Parliamentary pressroom, with nearly all political spokespeople present for a unique, joint picture moment, first quotes and media interviews.
Keeping the media pressure high
There were more moments of glory. A successful petition with support of Dutch celebrities had over 50.000 endorsements within a month. Furthermore, there was a constructive conversation between TAPP and the Agriculture Minister on OP1, the leading Dutch prime time TV talk show. On this show the minister promised to accept the petition in front of parliament. All these actions resulted in strong coverage in national television evening news (RTL Nieuws), national radio, and national newspapers.
All political spokespeople on camera
After we garnered broad public support, we started shifting our focus towards politicians. How?
The media pressure, which emphasized the widespread public support, gave the Minister of Finance no choice but to officially recalculate the CE Delft plans and write a letter of recommendation to parliament. The Minister of Agriculture told the press that the ‘Eerlijke vleesprijs’ was both credible and creative, hence advising political parties to use it in their campaigning.
With the newest figures we did short handheld camera interviews with all political spokespeople, which we posted on social media and re-used in our media interviews.
A change of tone in less than a year
After years of this discussion being continuously framed through lenses of activism and being a tax burden, the new strategy demonstrated a significant shift. In less than a year, we shifted the tone from antagonistic and price-conscious, to building 63% support. Moreover, the campaign placed the issue firmly on the political agenda with the theme now being visible on election programs, and included in legislative proposals.
In conversations with Germany and France
TAPP is now even in constructive talks with Members of the European Parliament, and Ministers of Germany and France. Throughout these conversations ‘the Dutch way’ is consistently showcased: make change acceptable through strategically-chosen and easy wording, underline the benefits for all and build broad public support. Ultimately this ensures that politicians simply have to follow what their constituency wants.
National reach with positive sentiment achieved through prime time talk shows, televised news broadcasts, radio interviews, and national and regional daily newspapers.
International attention for the Dutch pragmatic and solution-oriented thinking in the Guardian, the German Ministry of Agriculture, and the European Parliament.
Inclusion in election programs of the ChristenUnie, SGP, D66, PvdA, GL, PvdD and DENK. VVD and CDA are actively discussing this within their parties.