So Ram Trucks’ “So God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl commercial is getting kudos from several outlets for being the best Super Bowl ad of 2013. Inspired by a speech that the late Paul Harvey gave in 1978, the commercial embodies an Americana celebration of farmers and their contribution to the country. However, while the mainstream is applauding Ram’s triumph, many online U.S. Latinos are seeing the commercial a bit differently.
The reaction via the Latino social media space has been overwhelmingly negative for the simple reason that the commercial does not reflect the reality of the farming industry in the United States. As Ram Trucks mythologizes the American farmer with images of nostalgia and a longing for a simpler time, very little is being said about what the commercial forgot to include: the real face of the American farmer, one that is predominantly foreign-born and mostly from Mexico. In addition, many saw the irony that the car being promoted as a symbol of patriotic pride is actually manufactured in the Mexican city of Saltillo (as well as in Warren, Michigan).
After the reaction went viral overnight, I reached out this morning to Chrysler, Ram’s parent company, to discuss the ad. A company spokesperson would not comment about the specific critiques, but did point out that the ad’s images “captured a cross-section of Americana including Latinos, African Americans, Caucasians, men, women, and children.” I was also told that all the photography was original and that the “photographers spent time with real farm families in many states across the United States, capturing glimpses of their actual everyday life.”
I am wondering if these photographers ever got to snap pictures of the subhuman slave-like conditions that continue to occur on many U.S. farms? Or what about the fact that if it weren’t for these conditions that happen on American farms, we would be paying more for our food? Or what about how multinational corporations are now becoming major players in the industry?
There is the Paul Harvey-Ram Trucks U.S. farming myth being shown to millions during the Super Bowl, and then there is reality. Overlooking this reality to sell trucks mostly made in Mexico is a typical shell game: it is better sell you a fake image that makes one feel all-American-warm-and-fuzzy, than try to promote a truth that would make way too many people uncomfortable.
The commercial, I am told, was the official launch of a “Year of the Farmer” campaign that Ram is sponsoring in 2013 to help “bring national attention to the significance of the American farmer.” I am left to wonder: will the campaign also speak about the ugly truths of the American farming industry, or whether we will all be fooled by a PR campaign that should be thanking Jesús for the food instead of God?
I was also reminded that Ram Trucks has been making “significant marketing/communications efforts geared specifically to the Hispanic consumers.” A 2011-2012 “A Todo, Con Todo” campaign even included Juanes, so why should U.S. Latinos start reacting against a 2013 ad that missed the mark?
Here’s the problem: Ram Trucks can explain its intents all it wants…after the fact. The optics had thousands (and I would guess, millions of people) scratching their head. Instead of a commercial that celebrated the reality of the U.S. farming industry, it chose to go all Norman Rockwell on us and present “a lost America” based on a speech from 1978. Showing too many brown faces during the country’s premiere TV event is way too dangerous, especially since a majority of those brown faces are part of the “guest workers” that this country’s immigration policy is trying to address.
Instead of celebrating the real heroes of the American farm, Ram Trucks gave us just another fantasy world. Welcome to advertising, people. Some of us are not buying it.
Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, Forbes, and The New York Times.