Yesterday, in between all the touchdowns and ugly deer shirts, there were some commercials. But these weren’t just any commercials, they were Super Bowl commercials. Meaning companies spent millions of dollars on these meticulously engineered 60-second spots in order to spark conversation about their products and brands. Unfortunately for the makers of Ram Trucks, their ad, which crassly features Martin Luther King’s inspiring words about public service playing over generic Americana imagery and big muddy trucks, garnered the wrong kind of reaction: Righteous outrage.
It seems there’s something about using the words of an assassinated civil rights leader to sell trucks in 2018 that just rubs people the wrong way. Luckily, someone with a bit more understanding of what Martin Luther King, Jr. actually believed has taken the time to recreate this commercial with a much more accurate quote.
“We are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion,” said Dr. King, decrying the manipulative and distracting nature of capitalist culture, which either subconsciously or overtly tells people they need to buy things in order to be happy. “Before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. ‘I’ve got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car.’”
If you’re wondering just how badly Ram bungled this situation or how little they cared about profiting off MLK’s legacy, you’ll be interested to know the above quote comes from the exact same speech as the one used in the original ad. It’s unclear how Ram thought they were going to get away with this considering this speech can be found with a simple Google search, but apparently they did. Ironically, fifty years ago, MLK himself knew exactly why something this tone deaf could be sold to American audiences without a second thought when he said, “I’m sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit.”