Dodge bastardizes Dr. King sermon to try and sell cars in Super Bowl ad
The greatest irony produced on Super Bowl Sunday had nothing to do with the game or the lackluster and unimaginative halftime show by some guy named Justin. Interestingly enough, it was produced when Dodge ran a commercial for its Ram line of trucks, touting ideals of service as an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Drum Major Instinct” played. That’s right, the same Dr. King who eschewed the triple evils of capitalism, militarism, and racism had his voice to sell cars.
Since Dr. King’s words are copyrighted and remain a part of The King Estate, April Glaser explained, “The use of King’s voice in the ad wasn’t just jarring for its tastelessness—which many, many, many people pointed out on Twitter—but also because King’s estate is notoriously litigious when it comes to the use of his speeches without permission, and restrictive when it comes to requests.” Yes, this means that Intellectual Properties Management Inc., which is the “exclusive licensor” of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Estate, was likely paid a hefty fee for the speech.
In her reporting for Salon, Glaser received a statement from Eric D. Tidwell, managing director of IPM Inc., which reads, “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. 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.”
A large part of what drove the initial backlash against Dodge’s Super Bowl ad is the fact that this particular speech is one of the last ones Dr. King gave before he was killed in Memphis by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Additionally, parts of this speech were played during Dr. King’s funeral, so it will always be linked with the assassination. In the speech, Dr. King details what he would like to be remembered for, and also plainly states the problems with the automobile industry that help to create conditions of poverty, including a criticism of car commercials themselves.
This debacle just goes to show how much America actually paid attention to what the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. preached and stood for. There should be no way to take this sermon, which was largely about the ways people could get themselves involved in fighting against corporate interests, to further deepen the chasm between rich and poor by selling a faux deep idea of service.
As Dr. King says in the speech:
“And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff… I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car… I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America.”
This, Dr. King would not have cosigned anyone who signed off on this bastardization. Dr. King would not have been bought by corporations, therefore those who are responsible for protecting his words should have that same kind of integrity.
Instead of watching that atrocious car commercial, Nathan Robinson, Editor-In-Chief of Current Affairs overlaid Dr. King’s actual words with the Dodge Ram commercial. I recommend you watch it instead: