‘Made me sick’: Twitter outraged after ‘tasteless’ Dodge Super Bowl ad uses MLK speech to sell trucks

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Social media users were not impressed and blasted the truck company for “exploiting” King’s words and powerful message to sell a vehicle.

Dodge has triggered a wave of furious backlash over its Super Bowl ad that used a speech by civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr “to sell trucks”. The minute-long ad that aired during Super Bowl LII on Sunday featured an audio clip of King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon that focused on the idea of seeking “greatness” through service.

The audio clip was played over dramatic shots of people working in various service-oriented professions including fishermen, students, firemen, football players and soldiers.

“If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful,” King’s voice says. “But recognise that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.”

The ad then cuts to a Dodge Ram truck plowing through the mud and water. It ends with a still that reads: “Built to serve: Ram.”

King’s sermon was delivered 50 years ago to the day on 4 February, 1968, two months before he was assassinated.

Social media users, however, were not impressed with the ad that happens to come during Black History Month and immediately blasted the truck company for “exploiting” King’s words and powerful message to a vehicle.

As Twitter erupted with criticism over the “crass” and “tone deaf” ad, the King Center and King’s daughter, Bernice King, tweeted that they were not involved in approving the use of King’s words for the Dodge commercial.

Intellectual Properties Management, the firm that manages King’s intellectual property, told the Associated Press that it approved the ad because it embodied his philosophy.

The Drum Major Institute, a civil rights organisation named after King’s speech, pointed out the irony of a section of the sermon that was left out from the ad.

“In this, one of the last sermons of his life, Dr King talked about both the virtues and the evils of the basic instinct all people possess to be ‘drum majors,'” the Institute’s co founder, William B Wachts told IBTimes UK in a statement. “In a twist of irony, one of the specific evils Dr King condemned was the exploitation of the drum major instinct by advertisers, particularly car advertisers.”

“In this sermon, Dr King asked that he be remembered as one thing only, a ‘drum major for justice.’ As we observe the 50th anniversary of this sermon and his tragic death, let us all honour that wish by recommitting to once and for all realise upon his dream that all of our brothers and sisters have the opportunity to live in the beloved community he gave his life for.”

Livid over the ad, Twitter users slammed Dodge for using King’s speech about service to promote trucks.

“Don’t use MLK to sell f**king trucks,” someone tweeted. “That ad turned my stomach.”

“Black people cant kneel and play football but MLK should be used to sell trucks during the super bowl. Unbelievable,” Akilah Hughes wrote.

The Human Right Campaign’s Charlotte Clymer added: “It’s incredibly disgusting for Dodge to exploit Martin Luther King’s words to sell Ram trucks. Tone deaf as hell.”

Another person added: “That MLK excerpt comes from “The Drum Major Instinct” speech, part of which warns against the dangers of unwise consumerism, and ends with King imagining his own funeral. So yeah, that commercial is as crass and gross as you were thinking.”

martin luther king jr

Not totally sure the Dodge RAM ad guys read that whole MLK speech.. https://t.co/QPa16BGv3d pic.twitter.com/3eFVZjb3BB

We are all built to serve, but it takes will and courage to do what’s right. Tell us how you aid your community with #RamBuiltToServe and watch our Big Game moments here: https://t.co/MNjwAXYmXw #SBLII pic.twitter.com/BcWTZectHq

Please don’t tell me I just watched a Dodge Ram ad using an MLK sermon on service. Please. #superbowl #Mlk

No.

Dodge using an MLK jr. speech for their ad. pic.twitter.com/ipj4SlSDRk

After the massive Pepsi fallout who the hell is the agency at Dodge that thought that this ad was a good idea? Jesus Christ. It should have already been obvious, but I guess when you have an agency presumably made up of nothing but straight white dudes…

How many people are involved in the production of Super Bowl ad, and how did all of them think “MLK loves Dodge trucks” was good

Can I just say, that Dodge Ram ad which used the amazingly inspirational words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during Black History Month just to sell their product rubbed me the absolute wrong way. Not cool. Who agrees? #SuperBowl

OMG someone overlayed that ridiculous Dodge/MLK ad with what King actually said about capitalism and car commercials pic.twitter.com/9IB528mCyt

I’ve grown accustomed to capitalist nonsense, but that ad made me sick to my stomach.

DODGE: We are going to appropriate the words of Martin Luther King to sell cars and create the indisputably most awful Super Bowl ad of the year
SCIENTOLOGY: Hold my beer

So what next?

A. James Baldwin, The Firestone Next Time
B. Sojourner Truth, Ain’t I a Walmart?
C. Gil Scott Heron, The Revolution Will Be 50% off TVs at Costco
D. Malcolm X, Chick Fil A Come Home To Roost

“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism” — Real MLK Jr, 3/3/1967

Buy Dodge trucks — Fake MLK Jr, 2/4/2018

That Dodge ad was the Nunes Memo of ads.

Is this really what our country of voracious consumerism at all costs has come to? The only thing worse than the Dodge Ram ad that uses MLK’s legacy to sell trucks woud be Home Depot using Emmett Till to sell rope and blow torches in the Trump-loving, red state south. #SuperBowl

If you don’t like MLK in a car commercial you are going to hate the new Doritos flavor Gandhi is pushing.

“I might not get to that mountain top with you, but when you get to that mountain top make sure you get there in a Dodge. and make sure that thing got a hemi!”- Lost MLK Quote pic.twitter.com/RLtXVkN7YO

Would MLK have rooted for the Eagles over the Patriots, Janet over Justin, Persil over Tide?

MLK did not die to be featured In a Dodge commercial. #SuperBowl

“I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their fully loaded Dodge Ram 1500.”

Mlk who died striking with workers decrying militarism & imperial war makers – used to sel shiny trucks with marching soldiers – corporate America nbc nfl should be ashamed-

Ok that was weird, and not in a good way, hearing MLK’s words used to sell products … #SuperBowlAds

There was audible painful groaning at the Super Bowl party I’m at as everyone realized Dodge Ram was trying to profit off of an MLK speech

Hey @Dodge: It doesn’t work to take out a #SuperbowlAd to proclaim your humility. Tonight’s ad was doubly disgusting, for appropriating #MLK and simultaneously turning his message inside out.

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