Dodge just made a huge mistake and so did the Martin Luther King Jr Estate.
The country became heated yesterday after Dodge published a Superbowl Ad which featured a minute of Martin Luther King’s speeches regarding ‘greatness’ as the screen shows footage of poor families, military soldiers and army helicopters coupled with videos of a dog rescue and churches being moved through a small town by truck.
The tone for the video starts off somber with sharp, startling music – only a black background and white text is visible showing Martin Luther King’s name and the date of his ‘The Drum Major Instinct’ speech (the ad was shown on its 50th anniversary) and moments later shows Americans struggling with the main hero, of course, being the Dodge Ram. The footage continues with sweaty, hardworking and grimy figures who look like laborers, farmers, fisherman and of course the athletes in their Americana sports gear. King’s speech repeats the phrase ‘greatness’ through out the one minute segment as video segments of trucks in mud, military veterans and diverse families all engaged in some sort of strenuous activity or supposed rescue as dramatic music climaxes and a truck appears.
The ad continues using King Jr to sell the truck throwing out statements like ‘soul’ and ‘love’ as well as using servitude as the driving factor behind between connecting him and the car company and that creates a whole lot of issues.
It was later revealed that the Martin Luther King Jr Estate (not to be confused or associated with the King Center or Bernice King) granted Dodge approval to use the speech for the ad. In 1995 the heirs of Martin Luther King signed over the rights to many items belonging and speeches of MLK Jr to the ‘Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc.’ which is owned and operated by King’s sons Dexter and Martin III who had previously auctioned off $32 million dollars worth of King’s documents and contemplated selling his Nobel prize and bible back in 2014.
The advertisement has two major problems with it. The first being the obvious which is that this advertisement clearly goes against the teachings and wishes of Martin Luther King Jr who opposed the exploitative capitalist structure and compared the military industry to being as evil as racism. When Martin Luther King’s words are spoken over video clips of military soldiers and used by a corporation to sell trucks then it’s beyond disrespect and a clear attempt to rewrite history and manipulate the messages of activists that our government has hunted down and murdered. For better context on what King Jr’s teachings against capitalism were about, watch this video clip of a modified version of the Dodge ram ad that replaces the sermon with dialogue about advertisers.
The second reason this ad is a problem is that nobody who watches this ad learns about the group of volunteers that originally inspired the clip. The 1 minute segment doesn’t ever mention ‘Ram Nation’ volunteers and yet the company and the Martin Luther King Estate cite the infamous trucking volunteer group as being the main reason this clip even exists in the first place.
According to Slate, the Martin Luther King Jr Estate made this statement last night:
"When Ram approached the King Estate with the idea of featuring Dr. King’s voice in a new “Built To Serve” commercial, we were pleasantly surprised at the existence of the Ram Nation volunteers and their efforts. We learned that as a volunteer group of Ram owners, they serve others through everything from natural disaster relief, to blood drives, to local community volunteer initiatives. Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances."
If King Jr’s estate had his best interests at heart they would not be capitalizing off him in this manner and if this advertisement was inspired by volunteers then why weren’t the original Ram Nation volunteers mentioned?