Historical Analysis: “So God Made a Farmer”

This Dodge Ram 2013 Super Bowl commercial features a selection of Paul Harvey’s 1978 speech, from the Future Farmers of America convention, as the background to a slideshow of pictures depicting modern American farmers and rural life. The advertisement references the Biblical narrative of creation, by stating that on the eighth day, “God made a farmer,” and explains all of His reasons for doing so.

It is very interesting to perform a historical analysis of this advertisement because it brings a piece of the past into the present by incorporating a speech that was already thirty-five years old in 2013. In referencing the past, there is an implied sense of patriotism, which was very popular in WWII advertisements, harkening back to a time when the American identity was closely tied to the country and the land through farming, and found in values like working hard, having a family, and believing in God.

One tactic of this advertisement, which situates it in the contemporary era, is its utilization of the soft sell approach. For the first minute and forty-six seconds, the advertisement introduces viewers to a lifestyle, the modern American farmer, through a series of beautiful images and Harvey’s voiceover. By including pictures of the young, the old, women, men, and a range of ethnicities, granted the majority is Caucasian, the advertisement seeks to involve a wide audience in the lifestyle it promotes. It is only in the last sixteen seconds, that viewers are shown the actual product, a Dodge Ram truck, and told that it is made for “the farmer in all of us.” Unlike other car advertisements, the truck is not shown in action, driving or modeling its many features, because the actual product is not nearly as important as the lifestyle it can provide.

Another common characteristic of contemporary advertisements employed here is the evocation of nostalgia. By addressing “the farmer in all of us”, viewers are reminded of the collective American past of farming, a time before urbanization and the city opened the doors to white-collar industries. Also, ironically enough, it was a time before consumer society flourished.

A final aspect, found exclusively in contemporary advertisements, is this advertisement’s transformational function. While advertisements of previous eras had only an informational function, which focused on the uses of the product and its potential effects, this advertisement tells the viewer very little about the product, the Dodge Ram truck. Instead, it challenges societal values and norms in a somewhat unconventional manner, by offering viewers a way to return to those of an earlier, and perhaps simpler, time.

The modern consumer is both savvy and wary of advertising, which forces advertisers to think creatively in order to be successful. There were two things about this advertisement that deviated from a typical contemporary advertisement. First, there is no catchy pop song playing in the background. Second, the people are not models or celebrities; they are just ordinary people. Personally, I found both of these choices to make the advertisement refreshing and memorable.

-S.L.W.

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