The Super bowl consists of two parts, the football, and the commercials. They’re usually funny and harmless, but Ram decided to take it a step further by promoting their 2019 Ram 1500 with none of than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in the background.
The commercial shows people of various forms of life struggling and working hard. As you can imagine the Ram 1500 shows up in many of these scenes and is made out to be some sort of savior. During all this, we hear an excerpt of King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon that he delivered in Atlanta just two months before his assassination. The irony of inserting this speech into a pickup truck commercial is amazing. Below is another excerpt from the same speech.
“If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. … By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. … You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
As you can see King uses a very anti-capitalistic tone and even criticizes car advertisements. It’s pretty messed up that Ram would use a civil rights icon like Martin Luther King Jr. to sell pickup trucks, but the reality is, most don’t know the speech and don’t understand the full message. It’s also interesting to note that there is some confusion surrounding the use of the King’s voice in the commercial. The King Center and one of King’s daughters took to Twitter to say they are not responsible for approving “words or imagery for use in merchandise, entertainment (movies, music, artwork, etc.) or advertisement.”
Apparently, Ram approached the Dr. King’s estate about using the clip and Eric D. Tidwell, the managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, and licenser of the estate said:
“Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances,” Mr. Tidwell said in a statement according to the nytimes.com. “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others.”
Fiat Chrysler who owns Ram was quick to comment saying this according to the nytimes.com:
“We worked closely with the representatives of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate to receive the necessary approvals, and estate representatives were a very important part of the creative process every step of the way.”
The whole thing is a total mess and a company’s worst nightmare when it comes to Super Bowl commercials considering a 30-second slot can cost upwards of $5 million. Maybe next time they will stick to some technical specs on why the Ram 1500 kicks butt or just run the Viking Ram ad twice, we all liked that one.