Martin Luther King Jr. certainly had a dream, and it's safe to say that it didn't have anything to do with selling pickup trucks.
Dodge is facing considerable backlash online this week, all thanks to what some are calling an ill-conceived Super Bowl ad. The 1-minute commercial was viewed by more than 100 million people and features an excerpt from King's "The Drum Major Instinct," a sermon that he gave mere months before his assassination, NBC News reports. Mixed in with King's words are patriotic shots of soldiers returning home to their families and various other scenes of emotionally stirring moments.
Also mixed in? Slow motion shots of Ram trucks in action.
A number of viewers took to social media to express their disappointment with Dodge for using the words of a Civil Rights icon in their ad. While the commercial did encourage viewers to serve others, some argued that it's still essentially a commercial to sell trucks.
The Washington Post reports that Dodge's use of the sermon was approved by the managers of King's estate, with King's son Dexter King saying 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 King Center in Atlanta sounded off on Twitter shortly after the ad aired, explaining that neither they nor Bernice King had anything to do with Dodge's ad.
"Neither @TheKingCenter nor @BerniceKing is the entity that approves the use of #MLK's words or imagery for use in merchandise, entertainment (movies, music, artwork, etc) or advertisement, including tonight's @Dodge #SuperBowl commercial," reads their tweet.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the manufacturer of Dodge Ram trucks, commented on the ad in a statement of their own.
"It is 50 years to the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave such a tremendous speech about the value of service," it reads. "Ram was honored to have the privilege of working with the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. to celebrate those words during the largest TV viewing event annually. 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."
Ironically enough, King spoke out about the dangers of spending too much money on cars during that very same sermon.
"Do you ever see people buy cars that they can't even begin to buy in terms of their income? You've seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don't earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford," King said at one point. "But it feeds a repressed ego. You know, economists tell us that your automobile should not cost more than half of your annual income. So if you make an income of $5,000, your car shouldn't cost more than about $2,500. That's just good economics."
One creative Twitter user even remixed the Dodge ad, using the section of King's sermon where he talks about cars and manipulative advertising and combining it with the visuals of Dodge's original ad. Check it out below.
[Photo: Creative Commons, Youtube]