Once a year, on that special Super Bowl Sunday, advertisers attempt to crush us with big feelings: big laughs, big shocks, big celebrity cameos, anything that really yanks the old heartstrings. This year the most powerful ads came from a Dallas-based branding agency aiming right for the heartland.
The Richards Group, whose clients include Chick Fil-A, Home Depot, Motel 6, and Dodge, premiered its new advertisement for the Dodge Ram pickup truck during the last half of the game February 3.
The ad features a succession of stark, iconic still images that glorify the nation’s most time-honored occupation, the farmer. To capture life on the American farm, Dodge commissioned ten photographers including National Geographic’s William Albert Allard and documentary photographer Kurt Markus, among others. The weathered hands and faces of old farm hands, horse haunches, and idle tractors are interwoven with shots of a tough truck loaded down with hay bails or surrounded by pre-feedlot cattle.
The striking photographs fade into one another atop lofty narration–a recorded address by the late, famed radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. Harvey delivered his speech, “So God Made A Farmer,” to a convention of the Future Farmers of America (National FFA Organization) in 1978, David Haglund wrote for Slate. Harvey’s words take a biblical tone to honor the values that are wound into the fabric of the American farmer. Selflessness and sense of community, long hours and tireless tenacity, and a tenderness for all of God’s creatures are all put to tear-jerking effect. The winsome traditionalism on display is on par with the Richards Group’s past work.
In November 1990, Texas Monthly ran an article by Skip Hollandsworth about the Richards Group, where the company’s founder, Stan Richards, describes his company’s style. “If there’s one word that I want to describe our advertising, it’s ‘endearing,’” said Richards. “My rule is that everything that comes out of this agency must make people feel warm and affectionate toward our client.”
The commercial has an undeniable populist sentimentality; however, the concept did not seem entirely fresh to Haglund. The inspiration for the