CFarmer in fieldhrysler ran an ad entitled So God Made a Farmer during the Superbowl in 2013 that was based on a speech Paul Harvey wrote and delivered in 1978. Harvey delivered the speech in his prototypical flat, folksy, pause-laden style, speaking iconically visual phrases, like… “God said, ‘I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’”

The speech, which was delivered live before the 1978 Future Farmers of America, had the presence of a live talk; you could hear and feel Harvey’s audience listening intently.

The visuals were straight-ahead still photos, taken by ten photographers, of farmers and farm life. There are two shots of Dodge trucks in the ad – only the last of which really calls much attention to its sponsor.

And, this is the point…

Dodge Ram collaborated with the National Future Farmers of America Foundation to produce the ad, receiving special permission from Paul Harvey’s company to use the speech. Dodge agreed to donate as much as $1,000,000 to the NFFA, based on views after the ad had initially run, at a rate of $100,000 per 1,000,000 million views. They reached the $1M cap in only five days.

You see, if you can really bring home the experience of something powerful that moves people and causes them to feel some way towards a product or a service, you might even transform their experience of your company and make a friend, if not for life, but for a very long time.

Looking back at some of the most moving and inspiring ads…

  • Budweiser’s ad about a regular guy and his White Labrador Retriever, entitled Friends Are Waiting. The ad is terribly manipulative, and without spoiling anything if you’ve not seen it (unlikely), it racks up 10.8 million views in three days.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s spot For All You Love weaves luminously photographed, black and white images into a verité-style spot about the things we hold as the most important: gorgeous babies being bathed with J&J products, children, pregnant women and their men, wise and weary older men and women – the people we cherish – those we love.
  • Apple’s Think Different ad of 1998 – originally narrated by Steve Jobs, himself – the broadcast version was voiced by actor Richard Dreyfuss – was a simple spot made up of black and white editorial imagery. It showed clips of Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart & Bernt Balchen, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, and told the story of people who stood for something, often crazy ideas for which they were ridiculed or ignored. These people, “… the crazy ones…” Apple saw “… genius…” “Because the people who think they are crazy enough to think they can change the world… are the ones who do.” The ad was not only brilliant it was prescient. Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and not only turned the company around, he revolutionized the way we use computers and phones and invented tablets. He forever altered our relationship to computers and in the process, changed the world.

Even if you don’t have a product or service that you think has some powerful, emotional message, if you look at how your offering impacts those who use it…

  • Assemble a piece that highlights your customers or your employees and how they feel about the issues important to the company
  • Document an event, like a pro bono activity the company participates in: a 5K, a charity auction or something like that to demonstrate a commitment to a cause
  • Find a way to use your firm’s products or services to address a problem or to make a difference in the world, like this brilliant example from GoPro.