Car company runs commercial using Dr. King sermon
The answer to the question on everyone’s mind this past Sunday — “Did Ram really just try to profit off a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech?” — is, unfortunately, “Yes.”
Dodge Ram ran a “Built to Serve” commercial on one of the most high-profile advertising days of the year: Super Bowl Sunday. This year’s Ad Bowl featured a commercial overlayed with an excerpt from Dr. King’s “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon, delivered exactly 50 years prior to the 2018 Super Bowl, over a series of clips featuring people laboring in various tasks including training, fishing, herding cattle, relocating a church and rescuing animals.
The ad was not approved by Dr. King’s family, but rather by the manager of the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Eric D. Tidwell, who said in a statement, “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built To Serve’ Super Bowl program.”
The attention paid to the historical game between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots was quickly diverted as many viewers took great offense to Ram’s commercial. The Editorial Board could not agree more with the disapproval of the sermon being used for the company’s monetary gain.
The selection from the sermon featured a quote from Jesus instead of the more ironic lines where Dr. King blatantly criticizes car advertisements. Clearly, Ram counted on an ignorant audience unfamiliar with the contents of the sermon and chose to appeal to American beliefs about patriotism and Dr. King’s lasting influence in the current political climate surrounding racial equality.
This year, the cost for a 30-second commercial averaged upwards of $5 million. The Chicago Tribune ranked the Ram commercial as the lowest grade — a D — and, although it gathered approximately 11.5 thousand mentions, Fox News reports that most of them were negative looks. Ram wasted $5 million.
While the words of Dr. King were used with permission from the Estate, the decision to use them in a time of political tension — when African Americans are still widely discriminated against — was a poor one. It’s vital that the drive for profit not deafen companies to the tone of the country.
Featuring a leader of the civil rights movement for financial gain is appalling. Using the sermon out of context is insulting; airing it during the event where professional sports players have been previously attacked for peacefully protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement is repulsive.
Advertisers and big-name companies should be more culturally sensitive when creating a 60-second bit of money-making propaganda. Important topics of the political climate do not exist to be financially banked on.
This ad can join the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial disaster.
Written by: The Editorial Board