The Most Talked About Super Bowl Commercial Was a Presentation in Disguise
By Paula Tesch
During Sunday’s Super Bowl, a presentation went undercover, posing as a commercial.
The commercial featured a slideshow of photographs, accompanied by the recognizable voice of radio personality Paul Harvey. The narrative was an excerpt of his 1978 speech to the Future Farmers of America, with the recurring phrase, “So God made a farmer.”
What made this commercial stand out is also what makes it a great presentation. Where other commercials used video, the Dodge Ram commercial used a succession of still images. Where other commercials relied on special effects, the Ram commercial relied on a powerful story told by a solitary, resonant voice.
So how did America respond to this presentation in disguise? The spot was the most talked about commercial of this year’s crop, according to Bluefin Labs, a Massachusetts–based company that measures the impact of television via social media.
“We measured comments in a 45-minute time window from when each ad aired … the most social commercial this year was Dodge Ram’s “Farmer” spot, which generated 402K comments.”
The goal of a commercial and the goal of a presentation are often the same: to persuade. Unlike most presentations, commercials have as few as 30 seconds to get the job done. The Dodge commercial told a simple, visual story that struck the right tone with the audience using three aspects essential to great presentations.
No matter if you have 30 seconds or 30 minutes, you can use these techniques to make your message more memorable:
Know Your Audience
Like presentations, commercials are nothing without an audience. Sundays in America are famously a day for both football and religion, which are one and the same to some. The Super Bowl turns up the volume on that sense of camaraderie and patriotism, and on this Sunday in particular as we all watched the power of familial bonds play out between two brothers competing for the championship. The stage was set perfectly for Paul Harvey’s soothing voice to kindle the embers of shared pride, the value of hard work, and the importance of family. Dodge considered the spirit of the crowd who would be watching, and crafted their presentation to accommodate.
Use Simple Visuals
Whether you’re using literal images or lyrical imagery, your presentation should encourage your audience to visualize what you’re saying, which will help clarify your message and solidify it their minds. The commercial relied on still photos rather than video, which set it apart from its competitors, and perfectly matched the cadence and tone of the narrative.
Tell a Story
The speech told a moving story about the hard work and pioneering nature of Americans, relying heavily on repetition—a rhetorical device favored by MLK and Steve Jobs. The narrative took its audience on an emotional journey designed to inspire a renewed sense of pride in our laborers, in our families, and in the indefatigable spirit of our country, ending with the promise that Ram shares these values.
Besides confirming that storytelling principles help messages stand out from the crowd, this commercial challenges us to rethink the definition of a presentation. When the time comes to develop your next presentation, let TV help you think outside the box.
(Oh, and an extra piece of awesome: The commercial was based on a video made by farms.com in 2011, so RAM is donating money to the FFA for each view of the commercial, up to $1M. So, if you haven’t watched yet – get on it.)