Paul Harvey ad

Surprise hit commercial of the Super Bowl was the ‘anti-hype’

This year’s Super Bowl had two winners—The Baltimore Ravens and the late radio commentator, and middle America icon, Paul Harvey.

The Ravens, of course, defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34-31. And Paul Harvey, who died in 2009, made a speech to the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention in Kansas City in 1978.

That speech included what was basically a tone poem, “God Made a Farmer.” Dodge Ram Trucks, a division of Chrysler LLC, commissioned 10 photographers to document American farm life and used those pictures as a background to Harvey’s poem.

It hit many with the impact of a Ray Lewis blitz. The two-minute ad became something of a phenomenon. Its purpose? This is the “Year of the Farmer” and Chrysler was pledging to donate $100,000 to the National FFA Foundation— up to a million dollars total—for every million times the ad was accessed on a website.

That goal was reached in less than five days.

Why such an impact? The ad stood out from the crowd, and frankly the hype, in every way possible. It was a series of black and white still photographs in the midst of a gaudy special effects universe. It relied on the power of the spoken word instead of the tweet, the text or the amp.

It mentioned God. Respectfully.

Of course, our society being what it is, the ad has been villified by the “smart people” for the past two weeks. It was stolen, they said, from an FFA you-tube video. (Not true, the FFA and its Foundation cooperated fully with Chrysler in preparation of the ad.)

They said it was maudlin, sappy, corny, just there to sell trucks, there aren’t any real farmers any more and, worst of all, it’s just simply out of touch.

Ten years ago a movie called “The Rookie” was partially filmed in Thorndale. It was a mild hit but the critics hated it, one couldn’t get over a scene in which the protagonist’s little boy, in his baseball uniform, falls asleep in the cab of dad’s pickup, after a practice session.

“That just doesn’t happen in real life,” the critic wrote.

It doesn’t? Wonder who’s really out of touch?—M.B.

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2013-02-14 digital edition

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