To the Farmer in All of Us
Well, all us 49er fans are nursing our wounds and bruised egos this morning, but we congratulate the Baltimore Ravens for a hard-fought victory, and we salute our boys for a great comeback and a terrific year. So besides that crazy game and the power outage, how about those commercials? Although there were definitely some good ones (the Budweiser Clydesdale, Oreos, the partying octogenarians . . . my wife is still dreaming about the model in the Calvin Klein underwear ad, and had the best sound bite of the night: “Why is this ad a 10? He looks like that, and he doesn’t say a word. Ohhh yeah.”) and not-so-good ones (Is GoDaddy ever going to move beyond the video game generation?), the one that really stood out for me was Dodge’s Paul Harvey ode to the American farmer. Yes, I know, Dodge’s primary goal is to sell trucks. Unless you’re presenting a public service announcement, the primary goal of any ad is to help sell your product. But having been in marketing and advertising for close to 30 years, I’m always impressed when an advertiser manages to fulfill the most important function of an ad (tie the ad message positively to their product, and make that positive image that’s tied to your brand linger in the prospect’s mind over time and increase the odds of fulfilling a transaction or a continual history of transactions), but also deliver a message that could be reasonably considered to be universally positive, and ultimately spur me to reflect, both the first time I see it, and often in the future. For me, this one knocked it out of the park as far as my eye could see.
I’ve read some of the negative comments about the ad. That “it only focuses on men.” You know, my gut feeling is that if Paul Harvey was still alive, and invited to speak to the FFA (Future Farmers of America; now called the National FFA Organization) today like he did in 1978, that he would include daughters and mothers in his speech. I think Dodge did a pretty good job of including them with the picture of the older woman and our young female protagonist above, without having to alter the essence of Paul’s words. And the bottom line is this: most truck buyers are men, just like most clothing buyers are women. “Not enough Hispanics.” Wrong. I think both Hispanics and African-Americans were represented well in the relative time-span of this ad. An Asian-American family would have been appropriate, but that’s my only complaint. “Enough God and Creationism.” Yeah, I know. It’s 2013. And among others, we’re a melting pot of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Agnostics, and Atheists. But if you’re really “human,” it’s OK to take pause and think more deeply about the life you’re living and living in, no matter what your belief or non-belief system is. “Out of touch. Most agriculture is now mega-corporate.” No doubt, there is a large amount of industrial agriculture. But I guess those detractors haven’t been to a local farmers’ market lately, or witnessed the trend toward healthier and more ethical animal husbandry. Smaller sourcing and healthier options (in both the vegetable and animal-protein sectors) are producing more affordable options to cheaper and less healthy offshore and mega-industrial options every day. (We’re certainly committed to it!)
Ultimately, I have a soft spot in my heart for the American farmer. My ancestors were German immigrants who were invited to emigrate to this country, with the promise of land in exchange for becoming farmers and ranchers to help feed a growing population. By and large, most of the farmers and ranchers I’ve met in my life have been outstanding and big-hearted people who are motivated by doing something greater with their life than just making a buck, and I place them in the company of teachers, nurses, peace officers, firefighters, and soldiers. So, if an advertiser sometimes tells a story for the purpose of selling their product and it causes me to reflect on something that’s near and dear to my heart, I don’t mind it. I relish it.