Tricia Braid

Feb 04, 2013  |  Today's News

If you watched the Super Bowl last night or checked your facebook page this morning, you know that Ram Trucks ran a 2 minute ad to kick off their “Year of the Farmer.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically a photo-essay set to Paul Harvey’s poem he recited at the 1978 National FFA Convention titled “So God Made a Farmer.” We in agriculture liked it. But are we giving Ram more credit than what’s due?

The two minute ad featuring poignant images of America’s farmers and ranchers likely set them back close to $16 million dollars (ads were about $4mil for a 30 second spot), just for the air time. The National FFA Organization owns the rights to the Paul Harvey speech, so Ram’s one million dollar pledge to FFA probably took care of that cost. And don’t forget to add in the professional costs to their advertising agency, The Richards Group. The Richards Group is no stranger to using themes about God and agriculture. They count companies such as Chick-Fil-A (they do brilliant work with Holsteins to advertise a chicken restaurant) and The Salvation Army amongst their clients. Their “Guts, Glory, Ram” television ads feature not only farm scenery, but extreme sports like rodeo and motocross.

At the end of the day, Ram is selling pickups to people like you and me. And they hit a home-run with this ad selling full-sized pickup trucks to people with whom their ads resonate, and create a visceral reaction. (Or maybe that should be they threw a touchdown pass?) Given the reaction online via facebook and twitter after the ad, their success within their audience cannot be disputed. Congratulations, Ram. That was an ad well played, for sure. Well done.

BUT, there is a rush among the online farm community to “thank” Ram for what they’re doing to promote the American farmer. Was this an altruistic effort on the part of Ram? I daresay no. Does it hurt? Not at all. But let’s take a look at the ad with a bit more of a critical eye.

1. The images are all about the people, their farms and ranches, and their animals. This is truth, for sure.

2. There are no images of the outcomes of the work.

3. There are no images of the methodologies of today’s farmer and rancher.

Does that ad help to bridge the gap between farmers and farming and the 99% that represents everyone else? Not according to this online comment from a media review forum which ranked the ads: “It’s a commercial that no doubt rendered many Super Bowl parties temporarily silent with its moving message. (And then loud with arguments about unethical farming megacorporations, subsidies and the overabundance of corn in our foods).”

Research shows that the American public trusts the American farmer. You, in their mind, are hardworking, dedicated, nurturing, caring, and trustworthy. Cue the Ram Trucks ad.

However, what you do is held with great skepticism.

The lesson here is to enjoy the commercial for the Ram pickup truck. It is glorious. But don’t think that an ad such as this is the magic panacea to all our woes in agriculture. But don’t take my word for it, just read that reaction of one urban, influential blogger:

(Quoted from by writer Andrea Reiher) “It's all well and good to wax poetic about how hard farmers work. But that isn't really what farming is anymore, by and large. Farms aren't owned by one hard-working man and worked by himself and his children anymore. Anymore, the meat that makes its way into our grocery stores comes from factory farms. 

Factory farms are horrid places, where thousands of animals are kept in disgusting, tiny areas. They don't graze, they don't get sunshine and they often endure painful mutilations and confinements, like chickens having their beaks sawed off or breeding pigs being kept in areas so small they can't turn around.

A commercial about what most farming is like nowadays would be a really upsetting commercial. People would be horrified to actually witness where their food comes from. It's a reason I stopped eating meat that isn't grown on a family farm. It's not that I disagree with eating meat -- it's that I can't stomach how the animals are treated.

There's a reason that Paul Harvey monologue is from 1978, gang.”

And that, as they say, is the Rest of the Story.

There’s more work to be done, folks. The ad was great. It didn’t hurt anything. Ram paid all of American agriculture a great compliment. At the same time, we can’t rest on our hard-working laurels. There’s still much to be done to engage in a dialogue with those influential people whose worries, skepticism, and fears, all too often end up as regulations that limit your freedom to farm.

Perhaps this last part is why we should all go to the Ram Trucks website to watch and share the video. Every time you do will send financial support, up to one million dollars, to the National FFA Organization. We’ll need our youth exposed to and ready to speak to these issues in the future, for sure.

***Blog edited to accurately reflect that is was Ram Trucks (no longer affiliated with Dodge) that ran the spot, and that the Nat’l FFA Organization owns the right to the Paul Harvey voice/poem.***