That Great Super Bowl Ad About Farmers Got Something Wrong: The Farmers

The emotional spot praising American rural resourcefulness that had everyone talking missed one thing: Most American farmers aren’t white. A new version paints a more accurate picture.

Dodge Ram’s Super Bowl ad, "Farmer," used radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s paen to American fortitude as an emotional narration to pictures of American farmers hard at work. And while there is nothing better than stirring hymns to the American spirit (especially if you want to sell cars), some people noticed that the images that accompanied the ad might be presenting an old-fashioned version of America—even more old-fashioned than the fact that most Americans are no longer working in the fields all day.

The fact is, more than 70% of the farm workers in America today were born in Mexico (PDF). Does Harvey’s list of attributes of farmers apply to them? Certainly as much as it applied to any white farm workers. But it’s hard to find a Latino face in the entire ad.

So, the Latino advocacy organization Cuentame has re-cut the spot, but with pictures that more accurately reflect the ethnic composition of who is actually growing America’s food. Then we can praise the actual farmers who, in Harvey’s words, "finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from 'tractor back,' put in another 72 hours."

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  • crazyhorse

    The advertisement referred to farmers, not farm workers. Shame on you for confusing the two and politicizing a truck commercial. 

  • James Parsons

    Maybe they are now, but when I was a child living on a farm with my grandfather and uncles in the late 30's and 40's 100% of the farmers were white.  If they Mexicans are so hot about what's going on in America today, they should direct more energy toward saving their own country.   Back in the 60's my wife and I drove twice from the United States to Panama spending one month in Mexico as we both fell in love with the country. Now I will not even cross the border into Tijuana.  The state of affairs in Mexico is very sad and I see no hope of it improving.  This add truly depicts the American farmer from earlier years.  As far as the Dodge pickup is concerned, get real people...it's a commercial depicting the sturdy Dodge vs. the sturdy farmers of years gone by.  I love the add and I am trying to buy a copy so my grandchildren can see what America was like back in the 30's and 40's.

  • FarmBoy09

    Pardon me
    I must not be a farmer along with all the other white farmers I know. All these
    years I never knew we were faking it. What farmer would buy a NEW truck? you
    asked so here you go. Well one that needs a new one and wants to buy a new one
    and has the money to buy a new one. This is targeting the farmer who can afford
    a new truck, not the farm hands. Yes the farm HANDS are mexicans but the owners
    probably white. Many farmers don't just farm anymore. Most if not all of the
    farmers I know and work with have other jobs on top of farming to pay the
    bills, their wives have jobs other than running the farm and their kids do too.
    So if the latino group wants to think they are offended well guess what welcome
    to AMERICA we don't have to please everyone and I certainly don't care if they
    are offended. They can go pound sand.

  • Jon Peterson

    This entire article is shockingly ignorant, poorly thought out, and entirely self indulgent. Mr. Clendaniel clearly has very little understanding of how the advertising industry works. First, let's start with his own fact that, "more than 70% of the farm workers in America today were born in Mexico." If you go on to read his source for this fact, you will find that only 30 percent of all of the farm workers in America speak English, "well." So why would you be overly concerned about a demographic who probably won't understand your ad in the first place because of language differences?

    Second, it's worth considering the process that goes into selecting photos for use in ads. For something like this, one doesn't just do a Google Image search for "farmers." You need hi-res, royalty-free photos. Most stock photos reflect a "traditional" view of societal realities. So "office-workers" are dressed in khakis, dress shirts and ties - not t-shirts, jeans and flip flops - even though that's a totally acceptable dress code at many startups. The goal of these images is to be immediately identifiable without verbal explanation - hence these photos tend to play to a narrow stereotype. 

    Third, the most popular form of "football" in America is not the "football" that is wildly popular in Mexico. The Super Bowl is a distinctly American cultural event because football is a distinctly American sport. So yes, it makes sense for an advertiser paying $3.7 million per 30 seconds to focus its appeal to those people who are most interested in the cultural ritual that is the Super Bowl.

    Fourth, truck ads in general are made to appeal to Americans in rural parts of the country. The overwhelming majority of rural populations are white. Hence it only makes sense to use imagery that will resonate with that demographic. 

    Fifth, the ad is not about all farm workers. Notice that most of the farm operations depicted are relatively small operations that would probably be family owned. The harsh reality here is that the average seasonal agriculture worker, regardless of race, probably doesn't have the income necessary to purchase a new pickup truck. This spot is meant to appeal to farm owners - not agriculture workers in general. Undoubtedly, Dodge has done research on who its buyers are, and this ad is meant to appeal to those key demographics.

    Sixth, this is an ad, not a documentary. It's purpose is to sell things, not make every cultural group feel warm and fuzzy and included. 

  • ForteDesign M Schill

    Do we have to ridicule everything just because we can. Living in the midwest the family farmer still exist. I heard Paul Harvey's broadcast in 1978 as a small child with my grandfather a generation family farmer of german descent. The message is still true. It is long hour, tough, thankless job. The photos were beautiful and accurate for yesterday, today and tommorrow.

  • asperous

    I don't think they were trying to be accurate... I think they were trying to sell to a demographic.

    That demographic is white.

  • asperous

    Also... remember that they are selling an idea, a dream. I live in LA and lots of people buy trucks, but none of them use them (except maybe a place to stuff their surfboards or help their friends move). That's because they bought the idea of "Ruggedness" and "Farmer"-esque.

    What REAL farmer in their right mind buys a brand new truck?!