I had just come in from checking our new flock of chickens, when I remembered that the Super Bowl was on. I tossed aside my work gloves, stripped off my winter coat, and plopped into my old armchair. Seconds later, Paul Harvey’s unmistakable voice filtered into the room:
“And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.”
Holy Smokes! An ad about farming? Whatever this commercial was about, it now had my full attention. (See the video here: Farmer)
I listened, and watched. Images of beautiful farms and careworn faces flowed across the screen. Paul Harvey delivered a prose poem monologue, extolling the faith and sacrifice of the professional farmer. I could hardly believe my ears. Was this really a Super Bowl commercial?
I leaned closer to the television set, inspired by the words and beautiful images. I felt so proud that here, on the world’s biggest stage, someone was speaking so eloquently about my chosen profession, farming.
And it was precisely at that moment, when I was thoroughly entranced by the ad, that I first noticed the Dodge Truck. It was subtle, to be sure, unassumingly blended into the photo montage. Yet there it was. Big and shiny and utterly ostentatious.
Like the rest of the world, I’ve been conditioned to identify product placements in commercials. After all, that’s what commercials are for, right? And the instant I saw the truck, that’s the moment the magic disappeared.
Oh, corporate America, you were so close! You had me rapt, and emotionally invested. And then—just like you always do, you silly boots—you simply blew it.
What were you thinking? Did you really believe you could take something as noble and spiritual as farming, sneakily attempt to put your brand on it, and we wouldn’t notice?
Let me get this straight. You weave a story of hard working, self-sacrificing farmers, reaching out to the pure humanity in all of us, then wheel a big fat pickup onto the screen. Ugh. It’s enough to make a farmer want to drive a Volvo in protest.
But you didn’t stop there. You had to dilute it, making it more widely marketable. “To the farmer in all of us,” the ad concludes. Seriously, corporate America? You’ve just convinced us what a unique and amazing person the farmer is, then turn around and make the statement utterly generic. Why not just say, “To the suit-wearing Wall Street billionaire in all of us”? Frankly, it would have been more sincere.
Since this was a Super Bowl ad, let’s borrow a football analogy. Your commercial was like an 80 yard Hail Mary to a wide-open receiver, with the ball grazing outstretched fingertips before falling incomplete. The whole stadium rises to its feet, breathlessly leans forward, then moans, “Nooooooooooooooo!”
But don’t take this constructive criticism the wrong way. When I said the ad was ‘close’, I really meant it. Next time, here’s what could be done differently:
Imagine the same commercial, but with NO corporate logos or product placements. Just let Paul Harvey talk (the overdub, by the way, was an address to the Future Farmers of America, recorded in 1978), and allow the images to work their magic. So far, so good. Then, at the very end, leave us with this simple sentence:
Dodge Says ‘Thank You’ to America’s Farmers
No logo. No images of glittering trucks. Just a dignified, respectful shout-out to the farmers in your ad. After all, isn’t that what your commercial was really supposed to be about? An ending like this would have been so elegant, and so noteworthy.
If you had done this, I GUARANTEE that the next truck I bought would have been a Dodge. You could have had me, and thousands of other farmers, as customers for the rest of our lives.
Instead, you took something sacred and cheapened it. It’s only when you get the message of your own ad—that some people are motivated by a higher calling than simply making money—that you’ll suddenly find yourself with more customers than you can shake a stick at.
Amen. Personally, after getting 489,056 miles and 20 years out of my Chevy diesel, I’m apt to stick with the old beasts.
You can get another 100,000 out of it, no sweat!
Well, not having a TV, I missed the whole shebang. But one of the sites I follow commented on the commercialism; I guess that Dodge truck was what they were referring to. But based on your description of the commercial, I agree with you: a simple shout-out “underwriter message” at the end would have been a knock-out.
I’m a Ford girl, btw. Raising grass-fed Devon beef in Kentucky, and about to order your book. Thanks for the post.
I am from a long line of farmers/ranchers and granted farming is not my profession but we raise horses, grow food, and help work our families cattle. Many of the people who were on the commercial are from MT, and they were honored to be recognized on national TV. It was an amazing dedication, but it was also a COMMERCIAL. So yes logos and product placing are going to be there, isn’t that kind of the point? Even here on the side of your page you have ads, why wouldn’t they. But instead of thanking them for making a commercial, that has beautiful images of REAL farmers and ranchers and an AMAZING message, you find a way to complain about it?!?! So why can’t you just say ‘Thank You’. Farming and ranching as a profession or “life style” as I like to think of it is getting to be few and far between, but the people who do it or were raised that way are very proud! Be proud of what you do, and proud that a CEO in corporate America recognizes that!
My take is that the context of the message/narrative, via Paul Harvey’s speech to the FFA members, had nothing to do with Dodge trucks. Nor, as far as I know, do any of the people pictured in the ad work for Dodge. They are farmers. Farmers are independent. Businesses are not.
Indeed, the fact that this WAS an ad seems to tacitly sabotage the message they were trying to convey, if you follow my meaning.
I am not a farmer but I appreciate all that farmers do. I really loved the commercial and it made me proud of America’s farmers. The sentiments were great and the message long overdue. In fact I didn’t realize that it was a Dodge commercial until the very end; however, it did not change the way It made me feel. At that time I wished I was a farmer.
Hey Jim, thanks for the comment. I noticed about halfway through that the commercial was for Dodge (there’s a clean shot of a Dodge truck at this point in the ad), and even though I recognized this, I eagerly awaited the ending to see the final message. As I’ve said, I think they could have accomplished more with less.
Well, I never knew farms were about 90% run by men. Even the photo of dinner on the table didn’t show the woman. I would never buy a Dodge based on this representation of farm life. I enjoy your blogs though.
I can understand your frustration on this point. Women play a vital—and completely equal—role in the story of the American farm, and the ad is undoubtedly slanted in a male direction.
At least it was not a commercial for Monsanto lighten up Pritchard.
Ha ha, Kate, I’ll be sure to heap on the jocularity next time :^)
Eloquent as always, and spot on in my humble opinion. The gathering where we assembled to watch the game fell silent when the ad was on. There may have even been some potentially teary eyes as well while listening to the grainy recording of Paul Harvey…that is, until the truck branding showed up. At that point, the “Noooooooooooo” that you referenced actually happened. The folks in the room (including myself) felt that the reverence of the ad instantly vaporized. Here’s to hoping that they learn from the emotional about-face that this ad seems to have elicited. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Ha ha, I struggled with the groan. Was it a straight-up “Nooooooo!”, or more of an “Uhhhhhhhhhggggg…”?
And thanks for the compliments, very appreciated!
I agree with Sievers in that it was a commercial. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that Dodge basically takes advantage of the hard work of farmers to boost their sales. They did nothing but associate the hard work and caring characteristics of farmers to their trucks.
I generally hate commercials because they are annoying and are used to reach out to the masses using subliminal messaging. And I personally believe that if your product is good, people will buy it. But I guess that’s not how things work these days.
Vee, I think you summarized my point perfectly. I could probably use your help in the future for brevity!
Hey FP. Interesting point of view. Thanks for the post. (Do you mind if I reference/quote it on my LinkedIn page?)
As one who’s career choice is to be on the other side of the table–I am an ad man–I can tell you that good commercials are ALWAYS about the product. In business school, no in freshman year Management 101, the first thing that gets drilled into students’ heads is that a company’s first priority is to the shareholders of the company. In other words, spending a lot of money on an ad that doesn’t draw a clear line between the message/benefit and product is an irresponsible act. (30s Super Bowl ads were north of $3.5M this year)
But you aren’t suggesting the ad should have been unbranded, so I think you understand that. I guess it’s a matter of subjective opinion. Personally, I thought the ad was very well done and subtle enough that I found myself watching it carefully just to figure out whose ad it was.
It was a great spot whatever your assessment of the level of commercialization. The photography was simply stunning. The president of the AFA or the Farm Bureau (or whoever) should have been on the phone the next day to thank the CMO of Dodge for that ad. What a great recruiting tool!
On a related note, are you hiring?
Hey Zack, thanks for the insightful response. Naturally, I understand that this was an ad. But simultaneously, it tried to be much more—something soulful and reverent. And by choosing to link this campaign to farmers (who are famously independent folks), they took a sizeable risk for the chance of reward (as you put it, x millions for such a long segment).
And I felt like they ALMOST got it right. Sooooo close. But the very ads that are intended to persuade are the same ads that have taught me to be cautious and skeptical. In the end, when they could have really sealed the deal, they fumbled.
And sure, please use this on LinkedIn. Also, I’m currently all hired-up for 2013, but will need apprentices for 2014.
Grew up on a small farm and ranch in Montana. My dad owned and we still own the land. He never had a fancy truck…ever. Corporate farming is taking over the land everywhere. Wheat is crap in this country, too many hybrids which is making many people sick. We raised heritage wheat until the mid 1960’s then the push came to get higher yields, fast. Hybridizations, big tractors, cheap food happened with lots of help from petrochemicals. There are a few family farms left, I intend on seeing to that on my farm/ranch. I won’t own a fancy brand new Dodge. The banks can’t own you unless you are attracted to pretty new things. I’m a woman…I farm.
Thanks for the comment. The sweeping vistas of enormous agri-business farms weren’t lost on me, but I thought they did a nice job of balancing it with the photo of the roadside stand. It was certainly an effort, at least.
Best wishes for your family farm, and please stay in touch.
If your blog entries are indicative of the writing style in your book (when the H-E-Double-Toothpicks will the book be on the shelves?!?), I can’t wait to start turning the pages! Regarding the Dodge ad, I came away thinking that it was a great message to put in front of nearly everyone watching. Yes, it was a corporate sponsored message but show me a farmer that can foot the bill for a 60 second spot during the Super Bowl. The majority of the viewers, I would guess, are the very people disconnected from their foodsheds, or at least the food system as a whole. So maybe, just maybe, it will encourage someone to appreciate their local farmers just a bit more. I like to think it will encourage a conscientious effort to thank a farmer much like one would thank a vet for serving her/his country. It is a start on a large stage.
With that said, I believe constructive criticism is warranted in any situation, after-all, it is a mechanism of improvement! I hadn’t thought about this ad from a farmer’s perspective until reading your blog. Although I felt Dodge’s presence in the commercial was minimal, I would say this about your entry…bravo! I whole-heartily agree that your version would have been more effective.
Btw, my 02 Dodge has 256k miles and shows no sign of weariness.
Matt, thanks for the feedback. I agree that the message was very close, spot-on, even, except that this could have been so much more than just an ad. And that seems to be exactly what Dodge was shooting for.
The book comes out May 23rd, thanks for the kind words!
When I was a kid, I used to ride around with my dad in his white Ford visiting farms all over New York state. Paul Harvey’s voice always accompanied us during long journeys. For these reasons and more, the commercial had a strong resonance for me (and many others). I think this was its biggest success. In this culture, however, we are too numbed to the constant of advertisements. I’m afraid that without your blog, I might have just stuck to the surface with the warm nostalgia and other positives I drew from the commercial, and not given the Dodge piece a whole lot of thought. Thanks for keeping it interesting and taking it deeper.
I hate to say it, but I don’t think you were the target audience for that advertisement. Let’s put it this way: there are more prisoners in the U.S. than farmers (and I’m not sure which type of person is more likely to buy a brand-new pickup truck!). I bet Dodge doesn’t care one bit what farmers thought of the ad. They’re going after all the non-farmers who want to have the farmer-type qualities Paul Harvey extols (grit, toughness, perseverence, etc.). It’s a classic aspirational ad – just like the razor/deodorant/soap ads that feature some ripped dude with beautiful women draped all over him. They’re not marketing to guys who are already like that, but to guys who want to be like that.
You know, on second thought, maybe you should be a little bit flattered that you are the object of aspiration!
Looking forward to the book release!
Ha ha, Andrew, fair enough. One thing I AM sure of, though, is that I’m a product of my environment… and I’ve been bombarded, infiltrated and saturated with advertisements my entire life, like everyone else. As such, I’ve been conditioned to be both observant and skeptical when I see a commercial. The ads have taught me to be this way, because they are forever demanding that I decide to either purchase, or not purchase, based on their efficacy.
So, in that way, I think we’re ALL the target audience, regardless of occupation. But I get your point :^)
I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t watch television because I choose not to pay for it, but a friend texted me during the game and asked if I had seen the commercial and commented that it reminded her of my family. I got pretty excited like you did, thinking that the ad was REALLY, TRULY about farmers. It wasn’t until I watched the video the following morning that my disappointment came. I do have to say that in spite of that corporate mentality, I continue to enjoy “the farmer in me.” I have to disagree though with the implication that there is “a farmer in all of us.” Have a happy farming day!
Thanks, Kathie. Agreed, I think Dodge walked a fine line between risk and reward in this commercial. As the mixture of comments demonstrates, they are plenty of opinions on both sides… but I think we find ourselves viewing the ad from a similar perspective :^)
The BIG thing that you seemed to leave out in your post was that this commercial was made in partnership with National FFA. http://www.ramtrucks.com/en/keepplowing/ This is the website Dodge set up and the deal is. based on how many “badges” are shared from this website up to $1,000,000 will be donated to National FFA. I think the commercial was amazing and yes it was a commercial. It was able to do something that agriculture struggles with. It got people to thinking about our industry and put good images and thoughts in their heads. I don’t see why everyone has to pick the commercial apart so much instead of just appreciating it for what it is: an amazing piece of AGvocacy! As far as the last statement about the farmer in all of us: I do not find that offensive. It’s not like they stated that everyone could be a farmer.
I am aware of the potential donation to FFA, and appreciate your passion, but don’t see how this financial contribution is relevant to the conversation at hand. Almost all companies (including my own small farm) make donations to good causes. While a donation to FFA by Dodge is certainly noble, it doesn’t change the residual atmosphere of the advertisement.
And to be clear, I wasn’t picking the ad apart so much as I was saying how truly close they got to getting it right. A fine line to walk, certainly, but so was Dodge’s ad.
It’s not that it is just a “potential donation”. This commercial was made in partnership with National FFA and that is where the idea came into play. This is different from just a donation to a noble cause. They are raising awareness. As you stated in above comments the farmers have nothing to do with Dodge. But they do. If you go to the website I linked previously you will see it’s not just about this one commercial. Dodge is pushing to declare 2013 as the year of the farmer. As you said this poem was originally recited by Paul Harvey to FFA. This is about a partnership that Dodge has made with FFA, not simply a donation. As far as Dodge being so close, and feeling that they should have left the shinny trucks out, they are a company. Do you really think any successful company would make a super bowl commercial without in some way trying to sell products?
But it is potential, unless I’m misunderstanding the campaign. It says so right on the link (scroll over the little + button next to the word ‘donation’: it explains how the final donation is dependent on how many people share a badge to the ad.)
I hope to see this pledge come true as much as anyone, but until they get to 1 million badges, it’s still based in potential.
As to your last question: yes. The possibility that a company might do this was the entire point of my blog.
I, for one, feel as though this commercial was a great opportunity for us (as agriculturalists) to do some good ol’ fashioned AGvocating. I respectfully disagree with you that the commercial “cheapened” the noble profession. I think it dignified it! What with all the talk of family and God and community involvement. How do you expect Ram to produce a 2 minute commercial during the Super Bowl, which probably cost in the upwards of a couple million dollars, without placing their logo on it. Heck, I wouldn’t have cared if GoDaddy was the company that placed the commercial. It wouldn’t have mattered, the point is that Americas Farmers stole Americas heart for just a few short moments.
Thanks for the response, Cody, but I think you misunderstood my suggestion. I don’t presume that Dodge shouldn’t have been mentioned. I suggest that the ad would have been more powerful if they had repositioned the thrust of their endorsement: instead of tying themselves to iconic farmers, simply use the moment to say ‘thanks,’ including their name as the ‘thanker.’
In my opinion, this becomes a win-win, as opposed to a sneaky way of linking their brand to independent people.
Not a farmer, nor did I watch the Super Bowl, however, this commercial flooded my facebook page and I watched and I loved it. Until you told me what the commercial was for, I could not remember what it was for. What I remembered was that someone was putting farmer’s and their importance and their undervalued value into the forefront, all under the pretext of God creating them. So from the bottom of my heart, and stomach, I thank you. I thank you for all of the hard work and your passion.
As far as Dodge is concerned, a simple thank you would have been perfect.
More Americans cared about our local farmers and even potentially shed tears for them than has probably ever happened in modern history. Dodge probably paid close to $4mm for that ad, so for us to assume that they shouldn’t showcase their quality product is pretty selfish. It was one of the most emotionally provoking ads I’ve ever seen. I run a farmers market and deeply care for the farmers we represent. This is a classic opportunity to see the glass half full, or to whine about not fully getting our way. Sure it would have been cool to just simply post an ode to farmers, but who’s really going to pay for that? It was a beautiful ad and a beautiful moment for me. Let’s take the win here guys (and gals:)…
I was instantly cynical about this ad… beautiful as it was I knew what it cost! I believe the figure was $3.8 million for a 30 second spot. My thought was “How about nix the commercial and donate the cost to organizations that support farms?” Then I saw the Huff Post piece below. Still cynical though! I agree that a humble thank you at the end would have left less of a bitter taste in my mouth. Wonder if anyone will hold them to their stated pledge?
“On its website, Ram says it will make a donation to support FFA and “local hunger and education programs” for every time someone shares the video on Twitter or Facebook.”
I haven’t read all the above comments, but i did see the ad, and had similar feelings, though wasn’t quite as enthralled, as I knew it had to have had some deviousness behind it, considering it was a superbowl ad. My problem with it was it grossly misrepresented teh changing face of American farms and farmers – there was one female pictured, and she was roughly 9 years old – and all the farms pictured were megafarms, no image representing all the young, female (and male) farmers who are producing food for their local communities across this country.
In defense of the advertisement, it was quite representative of the Farmers actively involved in agriculture. Over half of American Farmers are over the age of 50 and are Caucasian males.
Sadly, I’m pretty sure Dodge was not targetting farmers with this ad, as we are a small percentage of the population and not usually thought of as having a large amount of disposable income. I think they were manipulating a population hungry for meaning and authenticity with romanticized images of tough, respectable men and wide, open (and mono-cropped) landscapes in hopes that small, frustrated men in tiny cubicles 20 stories above anything resembling soil will drop a wad of cash on a shiny, new, gas-guzzling truck in hopes of feeling a little bit of what I (a female farmer, by the way) feel so often in my work; proud, blessed and alive.
i would just like you to know that there must be others out there like me – the ones who saw the commercial, felt the bastardizing effect that the image of a dodge truck smeared all over the screen, BUT who took away NOTHING LESS THAN the very powerful message that was offered up during paul harvey’s soliloquey. “nobody can take anything away from you unless you allow it”. dodge took nothing away w/ their veiled attempts. i am not a farmer. i was not raised on a farm. i wasn’t even born in a farming town. i am a woman who loves what farming represents – nature and nurture; and i am saddened by the state of farming today. it was the only commercial that moved me to tears, and made my heart swell. i was born in the wrong generation.
I believe, just like so many who have criticized this commercial, you are missing the main point here. It was about farmers. Not some image of what one person visualizes or another but about the farmer. Sure there was a Dodge truck and some Case equipment as well but you don’t put an ad this long in the Superbowl line up without some money and Dodge put up the cash. They deserve to at least have a little coverage. Besides, the other objective of this commercial is to raise money for the National FFA Foundation for their program to feed the hungry. Every time the video is viewed the donation goes up. So, instead of complaining about the truck why not celebrate the message and the goal. That being to show the farmer in a glorious light and feed the hungry…. something every farmer wants to do without the limelight.
[…] that farmer video from the Super Bowl? Here’s what a farmer thinks about it. [Smith […]
Here’s what the commercial meant to say:http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/e1abab3c2b/god-made-a-factory-farmer?rel=player
See Michael Pollan’s link on Facebook?
Ouch. Congratulations, Madison Avenue! A car should be a tool composed of engineering, science, materials, and manual labor. Cars differentiate themselves on things like gas mileage and durability and power. However, advertising has changed all that. Instead of deciding whether or not to buy a car on how well it works, Madison Avenue have convinced people to base their decision on ephemeral words and pictures and stories that have nothing to do with how good product is. Farmers may go through enormous efforts for a year to grow our food, engineers may combine decades of knowledge in designing cars, and factory workers may go through great lengths to getting all the pieces to fit together well, but none of that matters because, for less than a minute, some advertising person said the wrong thing. It’s an interesting lesson: no matter how well the rest of us might think we’re doing, it seems that the illusions that Madison Avenue weaves run the world.
[…] http://new.smithmeadows.com/farm/did-you-see-that-farming-ad-during-the-super-bowl/ […]
Hmm…I enjoyed every bit of it. As a farm & ranch family that has mostly Dodge Pickups because the motors in other brands can’t hold up to the work load we put on them it was right on target. It reminded me of so many in the small country town here in Texas. In fact at the end was my exact pickup…except mine is rarely clean living out in the country. And, no they didn’t show any women and it did not offend me at all. I think people over think things. I’ve drug many peanut trailers, cattle trailers and cooked many meals for my guys and it still did not offend me…we are such a blessed family and love what we do. And I will be buying more Dodges unless some of the others strengthen their horsepower where it doesn’t blow something when a work load is put on them. Everyone in this farm & ranch community were really glad to see something like that on a Super Bowl commercial. Our oldest son wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps but passed away 3 months before graduating for college…I think about the big corporate mega farms that are taking over and realize what a dying breed the family farms are like ours…so Dodge, thank you for honoring us in that way.
[…] Check out his post and his suggestion for how it could have been a great ad. […]
VERY WELL SAID, MR. PRITCHARD, BRAVO!
personally, i hate both football and commercials, but a good deal of what i hate about commercials is in perfect alignment with your outrage.
this ad neither honours the hard-working men and women who feed this nation and many others, nor inspires trust in a brand i already hold in poor regard.
…and to Motherbeth, who commented on Feb11, 2013: I AM A MEMBER OF THE TEXAS RANCHING COMMUNITY, AND YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR EVERY FARMER AND RANCHER IN THE US–STOP PRESUPPOSING WE ALL THINK ALIKE…that is referred to as solipsism, and applied as you did is just one step away from bigotry.
Agreed, solipsism can seem comforting at times, but doesn’t really carry the greater conversation forward 🙂