OPINION: Super Bowl Dodge Ad Controversy


Charlie Needles

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During the Super Bowl, Dodge Ram aired an ad that featured a quote from Martin Luther King’s “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon. People did not reciprocate well.

The ad uses Martin Luther King’s words paired with scenes of service acts to elicit a feeling of achievement for having realized the meaning of King’s quote. The ad, of course, is ultimately meant to warm the audience’s heart toward Dodge vehicles, but there was immediate backlash that continues to resound days after the ad aired.

Bernice King, who is King’s daughter, and The King Center, a nonprofit established by King’s wife Coretta Scott King, took to Twitter to issue statements of disapproval of the quote’s use in the ad.

















The official King estate, managed by Eric Tidwell, did communicate to reporters that they worked with Dodge throughout the ad’s creation to approve the use of King’s words each step of the way.

“We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others,” Tidwell said.

Ram does have a volunteer service program that coordinates community service projects, but that was not showcased in the advertisement. The ad shows a variety of individuals serving another individual or a crowd. These people are not intended to be a single volunteer group, but rather as service people in general. The ad features trucks emboldened with the Ram brand on the grill.

This ad was preaching the words of Dr. King, but the very purpose of servitude is to give without reward. Serving does not require your name being brandished with medals and praise. That is the entire soul of the King quote. Dodge Ram repurposing this quote to feature people serving and showing off their vehicles in the process does not highlight the public servants or those who have volunteered their time to help others.

The ad soils the purity of the quote at a time when Martin Luther King’s words should be honored. The ad aired on the 50th anniversary of the “Drum Major Instinct” sermon and during Black History Month. February is nationally recognized as the month were black culture is reclaimed, celebrated and shared with those who wish to acknowledge the struggles of the black community and help push for a better tomorrow. This ad was meant to touch the black community when they were most susceptible to his words. That exploitation is enough to explain the backlash, let alone the misguided use of the quote itself.

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