Why Ram was the best Super Bowl commercial
There were some good spots on the game last night. Impeccably shot, brilliantly edited, scored to perfection. Many demonstrated a mastery of advertising’s tried and true techniques. Mercedes Benz used Willem Dafoe and Kate Upton and what the industry calls the reveal at the end.
VW found a device both likeable and controversial, generating both pre-game views and in-game thumbs ups.
Doritos once again showed us that dumb visual jokes and guy humor is solid and reliable.
And Budweiser reminded us that tugging at the heart strings always works, especially if it’s about having to let go.
These spots are all solid commercials. But every one of them comes out of the playbook on how to do a Super Bowl ad. Frat humor. Celebrities. Animals. Follow the formula. Go for the yuks.
Which is why for me, Ram wins. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the arguments about how it was just a copy of something already done. The Richards Group found the idea in a video online. And Paul Harvey’s speech has been a farmer favorite for decades. So what. Had you ever seen it?’
The YouTube video wasn’t a spot, it wasn’t great, it wasn’t even on anyone’s radar until the agency made it a spot, hiring William Albert Allard and Kurt Markus to create the riveting images that elevated the story and actually made us feel the words.
Nothing else on the game — despite how well executed, or cast, or scored — was truly original. Nothing else took a chance or dared to do something outside the familiar box of advertising tricks.
Ram’s Farmer spot and the agency behind it took a risk, got all the pieces right and pulled it off. For taking that chance alone, they deserve credit. For making it work, they deserve our outright admiration.
Years ago, I was CD on the very first Super Bowl spot to use a poem. In an attempt to follow up on the success of our previous year’s blockbuster — Monster.com’s “When I grow up” — we shot a black and white commercial to Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
The New York Times liked it.
The sequel to last year’s hugely popular Super Bowl commercial, shown twice during the game, was more serious than its predecessor, which perhaps accounted for its lesser popularity in day-after ad polls. Still, the spot, focused on ”The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, was a standout, if for nothing more than its novelty as perhaps the only game commercial ever based on a poem. Stuart Elliott, NY Times, February 1, 2000.
But it ended up at the bottom of the popularity polls. And that was the beginning of the end of our relationship with Monster.
A few years later CareerBuilder fired its agency (or the agency fired Career Builder) for failing to make the polls with a Super Bowl commercial.
All of which makes The Richards Group decision to try something unsafe braver still. And makes me like it all the more.
It is a 2-minute commercial.
Viewed in a single setting, I like it. Viewed over and over, it's too long.
I'm reminded of last year's Chrysler ad featuring Eminem. It ran about the same amount of time. It never ran the same time again; the few times I saw it on TV stations it ran in half the time, if not even 30 seconds.
So... why spend all the money creating a 2-minute commercial despite promoting farmers and Ram trucks if 1) people don't change their minds and buy fruits from farmer markets and/or 2) don't buy the trucks?
... Levi's created magic with Walt Whitman's "O Pioneers" and Charles Bukowski's “The Laughing Heart” each delivered with a voice to capture the emotion of each word and thought. The magic of Paul Harvey is well, Paul Harvey. His use of the language. selection of each word and his impeccable delivery in tone make this spot so perfect... Nobody could deliver these words as perfect as Mr Harvey. Whats the going opinion on Oprah's weak delivery or misguided attempts to be Maya Angelou for Jeep? This spot missed the mark for me.
Really nice post, I have recently started to follow your thinking, and admire your intellectual curiosity, as an experienced agency hand trying to make sense of it all. I too loved the Dodge work from Richards Group. There is great courage in simplicity. In bringing something new to the familiar amidst a sea of naysaying peers. The spot was more than entertaining. It did the hard work making tough trucks relevant by sharing the values of the farmer, the snowplower, the tradesman. Nice to see the restraint of a copywriter willing to allow Paul Harvey to be the oracle of the American farmer. Great craft, amazing work, simple truth, hats off to the team.
Great post Edward, I agree with your assessment on RAM.
Quick clarification on at least the CareerBuilder Super Bowl situation with Cramer-Krasselt of Chicago. Peter Krivkovich, the CEO of C-K, fired the client. Peter is a friend and personal hero of mine!!!
@Ari Herzog Lots of reasons. Awareness. Dealers. And American (not farmers) truck drivers. Spot was not targeted to farmers but rather the work ethic in all of us who sometimes feel we are trying to make it work all by ourselves. (Without subsidies,)
@aquarry Ha. I always thought that was just code for getting whacked. Or announcing it before they did. Thanks.
@edwardboches I think Peter drew that fateful meeting to a close with two words delivered in an even and considered manner.
@edwardboches judgment call
@aquarry I would have used three: Go f*&^ yourself. Even more forceful than the basic F*&*# you.