Monday, February 11, 2013
What does "farmer" mean to you?
Among the Super Bowl commercials was one titled, “God made a farmer” for Dodge Ram trucks. In many respects it is a classic TV commercial: a brand trying to benefit itself by association with an evocative and meaningful idea. I have no doubt the ad resonated with many Americans, but is it a dying breed?
The commercial is an incredible example of the ad maker’s craft. The agency team had a distinct target in mind and used their content well in order to appeal directly to their audience. Assuming, of course, that middle-Americans of a certain age were indeed their target audience.
The ad uses an old speech by Paul Harvey as the soundtrack for a series of striking images of the lives and work of American farmers. Harvey was a well-known radio broadcaster from days gone by, and even if people did not recognize his name, his accent immediately hints at his Oklahoman origins. Then there is the subject matter for his speech. In a post on The Atlantic, Garance Franke-Ruta states:
...with its folksy timbre and talk of God, Paul Harvey's words stood out amid the stream of ads that ranged from salacious to ridiculous to sentimental on 21st-century CBS.
Let’s set the invocation of deity aside and focus on that other word laden with meaning, particularly for those living in rural America: farmer. It is a word redolent with mythic significance and the Dodge commercial does its best to evoke every single aspect of that myth that might strike a chord with its target audience: hard working, pious, family-focused. Think Marlboro man made humble.
And therein lays my problem with the ad. The ideal of the American farmer is largely an anachronistic myth. The spoof titled “God Made a Factory Farmer” from Funny or Die drives this home with a vengeance (thanks to Bob Gilbreath for the link). If nothing else, as highlighted by Alexis Madrigal in another post on The Atlantic, the typical person working on a U.S. farm today is not from the USA.
To my mind, the Dodge commercial is a Mad Men throwback, and I find myself conflicted on whether that is a good thing or not. On one hand it is a well-made and targeted ad. On the other hand, it trades on an idealistic image. It is a classic advertising strategy, but one that leaves me feeling used in an age where I have come to expect brands to walk their talk. So what do you think? Great ad or duplicitous anachronism?
This entry was posted on Monday, February 11, 2013
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