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The Super Bowl draws more than 100 million television viewers from all over the world each year. Many are not even football fans, and several just watch for the commercials, seeing what corporations will do this year to get an advertising edge on the competition. If you were one of the millions watching Sunday during the fourth quarter, you probably saw an ad that instantly drew your attention, yet took you a minute to figure out exactly what they were trying to sell. Of course, the commercial I’m talking about is the “God made a farmer” ad — the ad that provided agriculture with two minutes of fame.
When I first heard Paul Harvey’s voice say, “And on the eighth day …” my first thought was it was a local commercial filling in time because of the power outage. Once I realized it was the real deal, my next thought was, “Oh, that’s cool. Somebody is using clips from great speeches about American industry as a patriotic campaign or something.” But as Mr. Harvey went on, I realized that we, the agriculture community, were in the spotlight.
The speech, which Paul Harvey originally gave during the 1978 National FFA Convention, is one that has echoed in my mind for years. I first heard it when I attended my first national FFA convention as a young FFA member more than 10 years ago. It gave me chills then and still gives me chills now — no matter how many times I hear it. To say that hearing that speech during the Super Bowl made me proud to be involved in agriculture would be an understatement, especially after the sacred emblem of the National FFA Organization was displayed alongside the supporting company’s logo at the end of the commercial.
So what’s the big deal? In a day where farmers constantly are faced with increased regulation and opposition, somebody took the time to thank us and to reach out to the rest of the world to help them understand how important our occupation is. They took the time and money to show their appreciation to a group of people who comprise less than 2 percent of our country’s population, and they did it during one of the most highly viewed events in television.
What were the results? Astounding. The “God Made a Farmer” ad instantly went viral. When I looked on Facebook shortly after the ad aired, I was not surprised to see it was popular. I don’t get out much, so most of my friends either are die-hard aggies or aggies at heart. But later in the night and into the next morning, seeing comments, posts and tweets from the public and celebrities, as well as headlining many morning news shows, it was clear the ad was a hit.
The phrase “God Made a Farmer” instantly was trending on Twitter and, as of Monday evening, the link to the video on the National FFA Organization’s Facebook page had more than 2,800 shares. It is estimated the word “farmer” increased in social media usage by 1.8 million percent after the ad aired. In USA Today’s Ad Meter results, the ad placed third overall, was the top-ranking two-minute ad, and was the top-ranking ad from an automobile company.
One of the most impressive parts of this tribute was its simplicity. It only showed images of farmers, farm work and farm scenes while Paul Harvey’s voice played. No major celebrity spokesman, no exciting action scenes, no attempt at comedy, just depictions of the American farmer at work. Sure, it still was a commercial and by the end of it you knew what they were selling — although it should be noted that only 15 seconds of the two-minute ad displayed the company’s product or logo — but if they sell a truck or two out of the millions of dollars spent publicly supporting agriculture, then good for them. Ultimately though, the ad was selling agriculture.
The support for agriculture didn’t end with the Super Bowl though. Shortly after the ad aired, the company, along with the National FFA Organization, released a statement that up to $1 million will be donated to the FFA based on response and YouTube views of the video. I don’t think they will have any trouble reaching that mark.
I know most of us can’t afford a Super Bowl ad, but be sure to thank a farmer every chance you get for all they do. They truly do an outstanding job.
Matt Adams is a Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.