Dodge Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial - God Made A Farmer

Great Advertising or Great Cinema?

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Comment by Michael B. Moore on February 5, 2013 at 10:18am

Another Super Bowl has passed and, in addition to the NFL championship, America is presented with the latest and greatest from the world of advertising.  One of the best ads, according to most, is this new 'God Made A Farmer' spot.  It is beautiful.  It is emotional.  It is artful.  It includes a powerful voice-over and just generally is extremely well produced.  If you've read any of my critiques before though, I'm sure you can sense where I'm going with this.  It's all of the above, it's just not a very effective ad.

To be an effective piece of advertising, a commercial must - above all else - present the brand in a way that it sticks in the mind of the consumer and influences them to do something.  This ad is wonderful cinema.  It just woefully under-performs on its business responsibilities.  People will remember the "farmer commercial".  They'll remember how beautiful it is.  They'll remember Paul Harvey's voice.  They may even remember some of the storylines of the spot, but I guarantee you most will  not remember who the commercial was for.

Now, to be clear, I am a BIG fan of "image" spots.  I love ads that don't try to hit you over the head.  But as with everything, balance is best.  It's great to be emotional.  It's great to wow with imagery.  But what's the point if the consumer doesn't attach all of that to something that accomplishes a business objective?  The point of advertising is - ultimately - to sell stuff.  Yes, good advertising wraps business/product messages in a more powerful emotional frame that ensures that the messages stick in the mind better. But there should be no doubt that - at the end of the day - advertising must move people to buy.

As a creative vehicle, advertising frequently gets misconstrued as art.  Friends, it ain't.  Art can live and die on its aesthetic appeal alone.    It doesn't have to actually 'do' anything other than just be.  Advertising, on the other hand, leverages many of the same skills and approach as art, but is called upon to perform a job that art isn't.  It must move people to buy.  Unfortunately this distinction is lost too frequently upon advertising professionals.

As I frequently say, it's not good enough to create great nano-cinema and then throw a logo at the end and call it advertising.  It's not OK for the company creating the spot and buying the media to merely be a product placement in its own ad.  That may feel liberating to some agency creatives, but is lazy to their professional responsibility to their client.  It's not good enough.

Instead of opening this spot with the words "Paul Harvey", why not do so with "Dodge Ram Trucks"?  While Harvey is an iconic personality, is he more important than the brand he's supposed to be hawking?  Why not more directly talk about those things about the Dodge Ram truck that are also a part of of the American farming experience?  

The imagery and voice-over dramatically overpower any sense of Dodge brand ID.  Yes, there are shots of Dodge trucks, but there are also similar shots of farming tractors and other equipment.  Since the vast majority of people will have seen this ad only once during the game, are they expected to instantly recognize the brand of the truck being shown and to be able to distinguish between the trucks and farm equipment etc. up until the very end where there is a more visible brand identification made?  Again, I think the creatives' did such a good job of tapping into the romantic essence of American farming that that is what will be left in consumers' minds.

So, another Super Bowl and yet another missed opportunity to leverage a great idea and superior creative chops in service to one's client.  This could have been great.  Instead we're left with something far less than that.

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