Historically, the study of animal cognitive intelligence has been focused on mammals and primates. The phrase “complex intelligence” has rarely been discussed in the same sentence as the common chicken. And yet, over the last few years, there has been more revelatory scientific research into chicken cognition and behavior that shows these animals can be deceptive and cunning, have communication skills on par with some primates, and when making decisions, take into account their own prior experience and knowledge surrounding the situation.
But can chickens take a decent photo?
A new marketing campaign from egg company Vital Farms may hold the answer. “Hens Behind The Lens,” created with ad agency Preacher, put a custom-built, hen-friendly camera into a pasture where hens that lay the company’s eggs wander, to create a firsthand look at their daily life. The camera features a pressure-sensor platform that, when pecked or stepped on by a hen, sets off the shutter, producing black-and-white images of the hens’ surroundings, including vast pastures, their flock, and the family farmers who care for them. The photos will be featured in a national billboard campaign, as well as online and in a limited-edition coffee-table book.
“We wanted to create a new campaign that reinforces the honesty and transparency we live by as a brand in a way we haven’t done before,” says Vital Farms senior brand manager Heather Mace. “We wanted to show a day in the life of our girls on grass from their firsthand point of view. ‘Hens Behind the Lens’ is our first out-of-home campaign and a true one-of-a-kind storytelling experience told by the girls themselves.”
Preacher creative director Justin Ralph says that given Vital Farms’s B Corp status, and past campaigns like “Bullsh*t Free Eggs” and 360-degree videos of its partner farms—all aimed at spotlighting its honesty and transparency as a company—it would have been easy to start thinking about this new campaign as yet another celebration of that honesty and transparency. Instead, they started by trying to look at unproven ideas worth talking about. “[One idea that kept rising to the top was] this idea of largely taking people out of the equation and letting the hens photograph their own campaign,” says Ralph. “After all, who better to give you an honest lay of the land than the hens who call it home?”
Mace sees this as a natural extension of the brand’s past campaigns, and the perfect way to visually connect consumers to the company’s purpose while illustrating the Vital Farms difference from a new, playful perspective. “We think it’s critical to not just tell this to consumers but to show them,” says Mace.
Vital Farms, recently named to Fast Company‘s inaugural Brands That Matter list, works with over 200 small family farms, and its products are sold in more than 16,000 retail stores across the country. The company says consumer demand for free-range and pasture-raised eggs in major chains like Target and Walmart was up by 33% last year. The brand has spent years using its marketing campaigns to build awareness for ethical food production, why it matters, and how consumers can vote with their dollars for brands like Vital Farms that choose to do the right thing over the easy thing. “Hens Behind the Lens” is the latest cheeky example of this.
“We believe we’ve seen significant growth because our stakeholders, including consumers, know and trust that Vital Farms is committed to a more ethical food system, which includes supporting family farmers, high animal welfare standards, environmental stewardship, and beyond,” says Mace.