The Farmer in You

The Ram Truck Super Bowl Ad. Let's talk about this for a minute. Let's talk about the fact that we didn't watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. We were at the farm. Fixing broken water lines, setting up a stove pipe, tending sick animals in the barn. We didn't even see this add until early this morning when a bunch of friends and family members emailed it to us. Let's talk about the fact that the text of  Paul Harvey's speech is totally beautiful and totally right on. That is actually what it's like. Even if it is an absurdly romanticized version of what it's actually like. And let's go ahead and get it out of the way the happy fact that Dodge will donate a million dollars in proceeds from the ad to the FFA, a most worthy cause. And let me also get out of the way the fact that our farm owns a Dodge Ram 3500 and we are very pleased with it.

But after the beautiful, God-filled images are done, once Harvey's eloquent storytelling passes, I am jolted out of my teary-eyed revery when I read the words: "for the farmer in you." And suddenly I know how Paul McCartney felt when Michael Jackson allowed Nike to use "Revolution" in one of their ads. It's my life, it's the life of thousands of people, and it's really hard and it's really real, and it's being used to sell cars. And that feels weird.

As Americans, I think there is a "farmer in all of us." Thomas Jefferson's vision for America was "a nation of farmers." We have been an agrarian society for some time. Until very recently. Very recently, farming has become a an industrialized behemoth, growing vast monocultures, practiced by a vanishing few and to a large extent, propped up through government subsidies. This is not what Jefferson had in mind. As a result, farming is mostly a nostalgic notion rather than a lived reality. And that is what Dodge is capitalizing on. We miss our farming roots. We love and respect everything about what Harvey says. But we don't live it. We aren't farmers. Instead there is an elusive farmer "in us" that needs attention. So, they hope we buy it. They hope drive a big truck we probably don't need in order to cling to that American farming ideal. Dodge has successfully commodified the feeling of farming to match up with the rest of agriculture. It feels kind of ikky.

Now, don't get me wrong. I dig capitalism, I'm cool with advertising, and I'm definitely cool with using romance to sell stuff. I, too, use the romance of farming to sell my product. But I do so in the service of a farm. To a small family business. To all that this ad holds up. Dodge is leveraging that feeling to sell a truck. And while trucks are part of the farming landscape, Dodge has manipulated our collective love of farming, or at least our collective love of the idea of farming as understood through a single object and linked that object to something that sheer profit can't touch, all in order to make a profit. So kudos to Madison Ave. Don Draper says a resounding "YES!" But don't be fooled. The farmer in you can do better than buy a truck.