On a night when Twitter crushed Facebook and Google+ in the social media free-for-all, this was my favorite moment of the entire Super Bowl. The commercial that stood out to most viewers and received the most online buzz didn’t have models, nerds, babies, or rapid-fire jump cuts, but it did celebrate our nation's agricultural heritage and the virtues found within the culture. AdWeek declared it to be the best Super Bowl ad.
By combining powerful images with the poetry of the late Paul Harvey the commercial provided viewers with an emotionally satisfying two minutes of advertising. The beauty of the ad all but eclipsed the product itself. But....who cares!?
Chrysler had the inspired idea to make two minutes of his speech at a 1978 Future Farmers of America convention into the soundtrack for an ad for the Ram truck while affecting still photos of American farm life scrolled on the screen.
The spot stuck out for how thoroughly un–Super Bowl it was. It’s a wonder that CBS didn’t refuse to air it on grounds that it wasn’t appropriate for the occasion. It was simple. It was quiet. It was thoughtful. It was eloquent. It was everything that our celebrity-soaked pop culture, which dominates Super Bowl Sunday almost as much as football does, is not.
All the fantastic glitz and sometimes hilarious vulgarity that define the events around the Super Bowl — the halftime shows and the ads — can’t make up for a desperate poverty of expression. No one has anything to say and, in any case, wouldn’t know how to say it. Not Paul Harvey. His speech is a little gem of literary craftsmanship. It shows that words still retain the power to move us, even in a relentlessly visual age driven from distraction to distraction.
I think part of the reason progs felt the need to respond was the effectiveness of the ad. Mary Katherine Ham categorizes it as sweet:
There are four kinds of Super Bowl ads. Shock ads (encompassing both sexy and gross-out shock), Joke ads, Stunt casting ads, and Sweet ads. They sometimes overlap– gross-out Shock + Joke (the Doritos oeuvre) or Joke + Stunt casting, etc. It’s Shock, Joke, and Stunt that get the pre-game coverage, with the networks threatening to ban certain ads and companies happily riding the wave of publicity (the Go Daddy strategy).Here is the speech in its original form as delivered by Harvey in 1978:
But I’d argue it’s the Sweet ads that win the day. One of the few memorable ads of the last several years is the VW Darth Vader ad, in which a mid-class German sedan becomes a way to fulfill your six-year-old’s childhood fantasy. One of the best Super Bowl ads of all time is the Coca-Cola jersey toss. As the Shock, Joke, and Stunt ads up the ante every year, requiring more and more shocks, laughs, or stars to impress, Sweet ads gain a unique ability to cut through the noise.
Last night, you saw that power most notably in the Dodge Farmer ad. I was watching the Super Bowl with a group of 30-something couples, and the place went silent as Paul Harvey’s beautifully resonant, retro voiceover came on. Dodge understood its customers, respected rural America (and those who feel an affinity for it), and connected with them on a deep, emotional level.
And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said I need a caretaker- So God made a farmer.
God said I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk the cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board – So God made a farmer.
I need somebody with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild; somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to await lunch until his wife's done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon, and mean it - So God made a farmer.
God said I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say maybe next year. I need somebody who can shape an axe handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe straps, who at planting time and harvest season will finish his forty hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, will put in another 72 hours – So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain, and yet stop in midfield and race to help when he sees first smoke from a neighbor's place - So God made a farmer.
God said I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to wean lambs and pigs and tend to pink combed pullets; who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadowlark.
It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners; somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and rake and disk and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.
Somebody who would bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing; who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says he want to spend his life doing what dad does...
So God made a farmer.