So God made a commercial

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Photo by stevenc1015 (Steven Warren) via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

J and I aren’t the sort of folks who watch the Super Bowl if we can avoid it, and we don’t seek out the ads either. So, it’s taken me this long to finally catch wind of Dodge’s two-minute paean to the American farmer. Of all the Super Bowl ads, it was the most chattered about online during the game, but if you missed it like me, check out the YouTube video below.

As Michael Wayland reports for M Live,

“This wasn’t about the Ram brand,” said Fred Diaz, president and CEO of Ram Truck and Chrysler de Mexico…. “This was about cause marketing and giving back to America, and having America appreciate everything that a farmer does on a daily basis, which quite frankly is part of the DNA of the Ram Truck brand.

“So we’ve been so pleased and excited that this has touched the hearts and souls of so many people in a positive way.”

Not everyone was completely captivated. As The Onion AV Club notes, “Frankly, I think [radio personality Paul] Harvey’s speech, delivered to the Future Farmers Of America convention in 1978 [and excerpted as voice-over in the 2013 Ram ad], is a lot of hokum, particularly now, when the whole idealized notion of the American farmer has been bruised up so dramatically.” But even The Onion acknowledges “there are so many subtle pleasures to this commercial,” and “as a piece of branding—of associating the Ram truck with such a salt-of-the-earth American character—it’s pretty brilliant.”

Some critics of the commercial couldn’t help but notice how overwhelmingly white was the depiction of American farmers. For example, Edye Deloch-Hughes commented that the ad

isn’t exactly original, but the execution is still stunning, so much so, you can easily miss the whitewash. Minimizing positive Black and Hispanic imagery and accomplishments is as American as rustling cattle. We’re often footnotes or accessories in history books, TV shows, movies and magazines as well as TV commercials. When content is exceptional, the omission is harder to recognize or criticize. Some friends of mine saw — or rather felt — the omission as I did. Others did not. I say be aware and vocal about how you are represented — if represented at all. Otherwise your importance and relevance will be lost.

Deloch-Hughes’s original blog post and Ad Age’s reprint linked above both include a link to a great video “correction” available on Facebook from the organizations Cuéntame and Latino Rebels. As they write, “Did you guys catch the Superbowl ad on farmers? We thought it might have been a lil outdated so we decided to fix it.” Check out their updated video here.

And, for a fierce skewering of the commercial’s blindness to other aspects of much of modern American agriculture, check out Nick Wiger’s “God Made a Factory Farmer” video at Funny or Die.

Critics aside, Chrysler plans to milk the stir they’ve caused in the media all year long. The Wall Street Journal reports that a book is in the works:

“We’re going to be putting a commemorative book together with a larger collection of all those photographs,” said Fred Diaz, head of the company’s Ram brand, which sells pickup trucks and was the focus on the game spot.

“We’re still working on it, but that was part of the plan going into it,” he added….

The ad helped kick off what Chrysler is calling “The Year of the Farmer”, a campaign seeking to raise awareness about the importance of farming in America.

The book is part of this campaign, and a portion of its proceeds will go to local chapters of the National FFA Organization, formerly Future Farmers of America, to help fight hunger.

I can’t object to “a portion” of the proceeds going to fighting hunger, but there’s plenty of room to broaden the conversation with a slightly more critical eye, wouldn’t you say?

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