Keep a hanky handy and watch the Ram Trucks Farmer ad some time — an irresistible, hokey, tear-jerking salute to American farmers, delivered by the late, irresistible, hokey radio personality Paul Harvey.
The ad dates back more than a year now to the next-to-last Super Bowl. It won the Nielsen Automotive Ad of the Year Award for 2013, at this month’s New York International Auto Show. Nielsen said the results are based its national TV ad effectiveness surveys, which consider an ad’s ability to be recalled, to have correct brand association, to have the message or call to action remembered, plus whether it’s well liked.
The Ram Truck ad won over two other finalists, a Hyundai ad with a Walking Dead zombie tie-in, and a Volkswagen commercial with the tagline, “Get In. Get Happy.” In the VW ad, a white guy from Minnesota acquires an over-the-top, Jamaican-style “no worries” accent and demeanor from driving his VW.
Compared with all that silliness, the solemn Paul Harvey ad is like stumbling into church. “And on the eighth … day,” Harvey begins, with one of his patented pauses. “God looked down on His planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.”
By the time Harvey finishes, anybody who hears the ad wants to tearfully embrace the nearest farmer out of gratitude for all they do. Anybody who hasn’t lost it already will lose it at the end, when the farmer’s son decides, well, maybe he’d like to be a farmer, too.
The sound track is lifted from a 1978 speech Harvey delivered to a Future Farmers of America convention.
To be sure, Ram Truck manages to insert a few gentle reminders that saintly farmers drive a lot of pickup trucks their wonders to perform, and finishes up with its logo at the end. The appeal isn’t blatant, and if you didn’t know it was a truck commercial, except for the Ram Truck logo you wouldn’t necessarily know it was a truck commercial.
Olivier Francois, CMO for Chrysler Group LLC and Fiat Group Automobiles, couldn’t help crowing a bit when he accepted the award that the ad’s unconventional approach paid off, not only with the award but also with higher Ram Truck sales.
“There was no celebrity endorser, no music, no motion picture, it was all stills. It featured hardly any cars,” he said. One initial reaction was that it looked like “a Powerpoint, with a lot of farmers,” Francois said.
But he said Ram Truck customers “saw themselves, and they felt a connection.”