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.