Ram’s Super Bowl commercial is tasteless and tacky

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Sunday’s Super Bowl played out like any other, with forgettable and memorable moments that notably included the commercials that were aired during it.

One of those commercials was a tasteless Dodge Ram advertisement that incorporated a speech from Martin Luther King that was played over a series of clips, presumably aimed to inspire those wishing to purchase one of their trucks.

The complete outrageousness of using a Civil Rights hero and legendary historical figure’s words to sell cars was not lost on many of the appalled people who watched it, but the fact remains that Dodge created and aired the ad in the first place.

I think there’s something underhandedly unsettling about watching an advertisement on television that boasts the slogan “built to serve” utilizing the speech of a man who fought for human rights and paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement as a means to persuade people to purchase their product.

A snippet of arguably one of the most impactful voices of our time, booming out, “Hatch a new definition of greatness” slotted over a truck driving through mud, is nothing short of disrespectful and careless.

The ad is an exploitive example of tacky commercialism, reducing the original intent behind MLK’s speech down to a shallow Mad Men-style sale’s pitch that detracts from the overall significance behind his words.

Though I do not believe the initial intent behind the commercial was malicious per se, it was a foolish gamble that Ram ultimately lost, by cheaply employing a speech made “50 years ago today” as a means to empty the wallets of drunk football viewers and vaguely moved consumers suddenly on the lookout for a new vehicle that can withstand harsh outdoor conditions.

In an attempt to further prove the overall hypocrisy of an ad such as this, a speech in which King condemns capitalism and car commercials specifically was placed over the Dodge ad instead.

In it, he says, “Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. 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 neighbours 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 neighbour’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.”

The King Centre and Bernice King have since distanced themselves from the problematic Super Bowl ad and have released statements saying that they are not in charge of approving his words for the use of the advertisements or entertainment.

Though I do not believe the initial intent behind the commercial was malicious per se, it was a foolish gamble that Ram ultimately lost, by cheaply employing a speech made “50 years ago today” as a means to empty the wallets of drunk football viewers and vaguely moved consumers suddenly on the lookout for a new vehicle that can withstand harsh outdoor conditions.

Underneath the video on YouTube, part of their statement reads, “In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ram truck owners also believe in a life of serving others.”

And that is the only disingenuous proclamation I need to read in order to believe that not only is this multi-million dollar company abusing the efforts of a man who peacefully fought for justice, freedom and equality for their own fiscal gain, they are shameless in their efforts to thinly veil it as pure, altruistic integrity.

No matter how you want to spin it, Martin Luther King should not be lowered to the standard of a truck commercial, especially when it goes against so much of what he stood for.

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