Super Bowl Spots: Jeep Versus Dodge RAM And My Dual Reaction

Here’s the one and only question I’ve been pondering about last night’s Super Bowl TV spots:

Why was I instantly smitten with the Dodge RAM “So God Made A Farmer” spot but thought the Jeep “Whole Again” soldier tribute spot was crass and exploitative?

I’m speaking of my immediate, visceral reaction to both commercials, which I hadn’t seen prior to the game.

Perhaps it was the rhetorical power of speechwriting-as-copywriting, or the familiar but otherworldly nature of Paul Harvey’s voice. Or the imagery was more impactful. But I was instantly enthralled. As I tweeted, “Paul Harvey just made every copywriter in the world look like a hack.” But as for the Jeep spot (which was the first of the two to run), I mentally lost interest fairly soon after the spot began.

So why the contrast? Both spots were lauding ordinary people — soldiers and farmers — as heroes, with only a loose connection to a product tacked on in the end. We’ve seen concepts like these before a thousand times. But I was distinctly turned off by the Jeep spot while the RAM spot stopped me cold and made me pay attention. The Jeep spot, while well-done, pales in comparison to every YouTube video I’ve seen of soldiers returning home and suprising their children in a classroom or at the front door.

I have few personal connections to either soldiers or farmers, so I don’t think the subject matter of one resonated more than the other. And both our military and our agriculture policy are points of contentious debate these days. But as I watched, I didn’t view these spots with any political undertones since they speak of individuals, not the collective.

Still, I had opposing reactions, and I’ll be thinking about that long after I forget the rest of the Super Bowl spots.

What did you think?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.

  • derek walker

    All writers are not equal.

    The writer of Paul Harvey’s was better at this type of writing, he or she didn’t try to make you feel something, He/She simply wrote about farmers, the Jeep spot felt like the writer was trying to force a reaction. No amount of music or Oprah reading can overcome that. They are not written the same. The pacing and flow of the writing is so different. Your like and dislike may be based on that. This should be an example for every writer.

    I didn’t think Jeep was exploitative as much as it was “forced.” One felt real, the other felt like an ad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-MacFarlane/503264092 Paul MacFarlane

    Both were pandering. Though each had a story to tell of humanity, why not do it as a film sponsored by the brand? Dont’ make that awful stretch to say there’s something about them that’s us or vice versa. Or, then stand up and make this your brand and do it holistically all year long. Its a sham, a cheap excuse for maudlin exercise to play on our hearts on Super Bowl media day.

  • GB Caedo

    Come on, guys. The writer for “Paul Harvey” was Paul Harvey. A great American storyteller, not an ad copywriter. Honestly, I can’t remember a single word from the Jeep spot. Being an agri-marketing creative, you hit the nail on the head for me, Dan. This spot made me feel like a total hack. Maybe it was the complete absence of product sell that gave me goosebumps. Absolutely it was the lifting up of the target audience that I applaud. The simple message of “we get you” and for the next 122 seconds, we want to recognize you. And not just behind the wheel of one of our trucks.

  • http://twitter.com/davidtweets David Smith

    Thanks for putting these side-by-side Dan. You pointed out why the Jeep ad sucked – it was derivative of millions of soliders-come-home videos. Plus the production was too slick to have any emotional power. For that matter, the Ram ad would have failed too if the agency had tried to clean up the recording of Paul Harvey. That raw sound carried Harvey’s credibility.

  • http://twitter.com/DanGoldgeier DanGoldgeier

    @derek walker Lots of good points. I think this may be a great lesson for writers — perhaps we should be writing these types of spots as if we were giving a speech, not making an ad.

    @paul You’re right, there’s a level of pandering in any spot that takes the emphasis off the brand. On the RAM website, there’s a lot of other information centered around making 2013 “The Year of the Farmer.” We’ll see how much they follow through.

    @d774aa5e11e4abcd984112d4eb86a085:disqus I’d certainly love to know more about what the folks you work with, and your clients, thought of the spot

    @twitter-15755472:disqus Maybe it’s the authenticity of Paul Harvey that I’m responding to. But I hated those Levi’s “Go Forth” spots with the recordings of Walt Whitman poems.

    Thanks all for your thoughts!

  • http://twitter.com/TimPio Tim Piotrowski

    Dan:

    I enjoyed your take on these two spots. I was immediately transformed after watching the Paul Harvey spot. One thing that strikes me about most of the SuperBowl ads…is how hard these advertisers try. They try hard to make us laugh, cry and even disgust us (thinking of GoDaddy). But the Dodge Ram spot with Paul Harvey…didn’t try too hard. They just (through P.H.’s words) shared some solid thoughts about farmers without any sappy music or other random cues. To me, this is what made it so good. And it was just great to hear Paul Harvey’s voice again.

  • http://twitter.com/SteveS1 Steve Schildwachter

    Dan, this is a great idea for a blog post…I had wondered the same. How and why are these two spots different?

    Most consumers probably don’t remember or never knew Paul Harvey. I do because I was an announcer at one of his radio affiliates. In any case, he drew me in right away.

    The Jeep spot should be lauded for minimizing the branding and heralding the cause. Yet, that’s exactly why I missed the point. I saw Oprah and thought it was going to be a PSA. It kind of was. Both ads and PSAs can be great, right?

    Right, but they are only great if they tell a story. That’s why I like Derek’s comment that “one felt real, the other felt like an ad.” To me, being “real” means you’re telling a true story, and you’re telling it well. The difference between these two spots is that one of them — Ram trucks — told their true story better than the other.

    One of my readers commented on Jeep at my blog’s day-after review: http://admajoremblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/super-bowl-xlvii-advertising-what-worked.html

    • http://twitter.com/DanGoldgeier DanGoldgeier

      @twitter-5632272:disqus Thanks for commenting, Steve. Yes, as your commenter said, Jeep has a good claim to its military heritage. Watching these again, it may simply be a difference of craft. One stopped me, the other didn’t.