The Dodge Ram "So God Made a Farmer" and Go Daddy "Perfect Match" SuperBowl ads were as different as night and day. But never have two ads better reflected the concurrent trends of surgical targeting in contemporary advertising and the value of online buzz.
In "So God Made a Farmer," a voice track of the late Paul Harvey eulogizes the American farmer while you see stunning photographs of farmers at work. In "Perfect Match," model Bar Refaeli gives a juicy, noisy kiss to geeky actor Jesse Heiman to show the coming together of sexy and smart.
Dodge was clearly aiming its 2-minute ode to agriculture (actually a high-production redux of a Farms.com YouTube video) to the Middle America farmers and ranchers who are in its mainstay customers. Go Daddy, the Phoenix-based web domain company, continued its tradition — dating back to 2005 — of racy, clever SuperBowl ads that attract millions of on-air and online views, translating into name recognition.
While both ads drew lots of attention, they also attracted serious criticism.
Writing for The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal said the beautifully crafted "So God Made a Farmer" whitewashed over the reality that American agriculture increasingly relies on the hard work of Latino immigrants. By his count, there were only two Latino faces in the ad.
Online comments about Go Daddy's "Perfect Match" included "awkward," "gross," "uncomfortable" and "nasty." Critics were especially provoked by the sound effects, which one said sounded as if "they had microphones implanted in their jaws to supply us with 3-D sound."
Some awarded "So God Made a Farmer" the informal recognition as best SuperBowl ad and some ratings placed "Perfect Match" dead last. It's not known how many Ram trucks Dodge will sell as a result of its ad, but Go Daddy executives said the ad generated conversations and its own trending Twitter hashtag (#thekiss), while breaking company sales records.
Lost in the hubbub was NASCAR drive Danica Patrick's role as narrator.
The version of "Perfect Match" that aired on TV during the game was tame compared to the version you can see online. Go Daddy CEO Blake Irving told a Phoenix TV station the on-air version was approved by the network standards and practices police. Given the rosiness of Heiman's cheeks, you wonder how many takes it required. Some online wags speculated Heiman did the acting gig for free. A male commenter, perhaps empathizing with Heiman, said, "Is it such a crime for a nerd to kiss a beautiful girl?"
And speaking of beautiful girl, no mention of SuperBowl ads can leave off the Jack in the Box ad promoting its new Hot Mess Burger. This ad features a young Jack Box rocking and rolling in a band, creating a frenzied reaction by the crowd, including a woman who begins to pull off her T-shirt. The ad suddenly cuts to Jack and his son sitting in front of a TV, with Jack noting, "And that's how I met your mother." What would a SuperBowl be without Jack Box?
By the way, the Baltimore Ravens won, Beyonce was electric, but the 30-minute partial blackout stole the show.