Image of church and truck in commercial that uses the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the St. Louis American and Victoria Burke of NNPA
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – A Ram Truck Super Bowl LI commercial sparked outrage by using a recording of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech to push car sales, In the 30-second ad, a recording of Dr. King’s 1968 a speech serves as the soundtrack for snapshots of everyday Americans engaged in community service.,“In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ram truck owners also believe in a life of serving others,” the ad’s description said.
The reaction was swift and harsh. An overwhelming consensus concluded that the ad was a tactless attempt to capitalize on Dr. King’s legacy. Among those offering backlash was the King Center .A tweet from the King Center read: “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.”
Although the center carries on King’s teachings, a separate entity controls King’s speeches and image — Intellectual Properties Management Inc. Eric D. Tidwell, managing director of the organization, which is run by King’s son Dexter, said in a statement early Monday: “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.”Tidwell’s response came after an endless evening of criticism. When writer Michael Arceneaux wrote on Twitter, “So that means the King children allowed Dr. King’s voice to be used to sell me a Dodge truck,” Bernice King replied with a single word: “No.”
April 4, 2018 will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, at the hands of James Earl Ray.
“The worst commercials are those that use icons like Martin Luther King Jr to sell things like a Dodge Ram truck,” tweeted Boston Globe Deputy Bureau Chief Matt Viser. He wasn’t the only one who noticed.
“So, Ram Truck appropriated Martin Luther King Jr. and used an all white cast + one token black to sell trucks to Trump supporters as if we’re back in the 1950s. #SuperBowl,” stated Lucy Amato on Twitter.
“Using a “Martin Luther King” speech and completely taking it OUT OF CONTEXT for a truck commercial is a disgrace,” another Twitter user reacted in a typical statement.
Super Bowl advertisements have become an annual obsession as the expensive and targeted marketing to a huge audience has become a place where products are debuted for the first time. Super Bowl ads have also become an annual time to analyze and study the many marketing strategy, as well as the “hits and misses” of the ads seen during the game.
It’s likely that the ad featuring King’s voice and words will likely be the source of analysis over the coming days. The ad might also reignite discussion on some of the decisions being made by Dexter King and Martin Luther King III regarding the use of their father’s image and words.