Last Sunday night about 110 million Americans sat around their HD campfires and shared in a traditional event – the Super Bowl.
But this year something was different this year , and I’m not talking about the 34-minute delay caused by the Superdome’s super brownout. Instead, it was the proliferation of multiple screens people used while they watched the game. This year, more than any other, we didn’t merely discuss the game and the ads with the people in the room with us, but we interacted with our tribes from all around the world over Twitter and Facebook.
As I’ve written before, if the only tool you have is a hammer, all solutions look like nails. So while I was watching the big game, most of the online conversations I was following were about advertising. Opinions were flying around so fast and furiously that it sometimes seemed like people must’ve had their heads buried in Twitter during the game and only looked at their TVs when the commercials came on.
Here are a couple of insights I picked up from reading what people were saying:
Women viewers hated the face-sucking ad for GoDaddy (supermodel Bar Refaeli making out with proto-nerd Walter) and the male fantasy ad for Axe (a young bikini-clad woman ditches her hero lifeguard for a beach-walking astronaut) while they loved the feel-good Budweiser ad with the baby Clydesdale. Though the first two products probably aren’t bought by as many women as men (and boys), I always assumed that Budweiser was a male-skewed product, too. But perhaps the brewery wanted to appeal to the women who still buy the majority of groceries.
Audi was a big winner (the kid who goes to the prom by himself and scores both a kiss from the prom queen and a black eye from her football captain boyfriend) as was Mercedes-Benz (Willem Dafoe’s Satan pushes a contract for a new Mercedes CLA over the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil). In fact, the auto segment probably garnered the most winners with standout ads from Jeep, Kia, and what I thought was the best effort of the night, Dodge’s “So God Made A Farmer.”
Coming on the heels of Dodge/Chrysler’s last two Super Bowl winners featuring Eminem and Clint Eastwood, the automaker continued to create an emotional statement about their products and the people who use them. Eschewing over-the-top special effects for simple photographs, Chrysler’s agency, The Richards Group, employed artful writing and the resonant voice of Paul Harvey to craft a modern classic (recorded in 1978, by the way, and used in a remarkably similar ad for Farms.com as well). Regardless of the original source, anyone who’s interested in the art of compelling writing could take a master class in this text:
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 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.
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 ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse with hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out hay wire, feed sacks, and shoe scraps. Who, during planting time and harvest season, will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, put in another 72 hours.” So God made the farmer.
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the 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 brake, and disk, and plow, and plant, and tie the fleece, and strain the milk. Somebody who’d 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 that he wants to spend his life doing what Dad does. “So God made a farmer.”
Did you notice something odd? They never mentioned Dodge or Ram trucks. Or that Harvey’s description of farming has little to do with the reality of today’s corporate agri-business. Instead, the ad created an aural and visual emotional banquet that made us feel good about America and about ourselves, even though most of us haven’t been to a farm since our fifth-grade field trip. All of a sudden, a Dodge Ram pickup becomes the way that we can embody the attributes of the farmer God made.
Fact is, actual work trucks account for less than 40% of total demand for pickups. Figures from Ford (Automotive News, June 1, 2009) show that only 39% of trucks sold in the U.S. fall into the “work” category with the remaining 61% of truck sales falling into the categories of “personal use while towing” and “image.”
But Dodge’s ad is a brilliant example of how brands work, creating an emotional badge that consumers can use to tell the world — and ourselves — who we are.