Feb 5, 2018

Dodge in Superbowl PR disaster

During the 2018 Superbowl many viewers were left angered after seeing an advert for the Dodge Ram pickup truck featuring excerpts from "The Drum Major Instinct" sermon of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr delivered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta 50 years ago.


The advert featured emergency service and military personnel responding to emergencies, as well as hugging effected children. This imagery was used to pitch the Dodge Rams' "Built to Serve" tag line. On Twitter Dodge added an inspirational message. However, most users were not inspired: instead replies suggested that regardless of the overall message it was inappropriate to use King's sermon in an advertisement. The advert went viral after it was retweeted along with complaints.


Unfortunately, many of the complaints were wrongly directed at members of the King family and The King Center (the non-profit charity established in his name). One that was picked up in entertainment media was a question directed at Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Dr. King: "So that means the King children allowed Dr. King's voice to be used to sell me a Dodge truck." She simply replied "No."


Eric D Tidwell is the managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, Inc. which is the exclusive licensor of the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. A statement released by him last night explained that the decision to allow King's sermon to be used in the advert had been taken after learning of the Ram Nation volunteer program, which is a collective of Dodge Ram owners who volunteer in various capacities including disaster relief, blood drives, and local charitable initiatives.


Despite all proper channels having been followed in this instance, the anger and incredulity has not abated. Many on Twitter are still circulating their thoughts on the matter, with the most common complaint being that it felt like appropriation of Martin Luther King Jnr's message for commercial gain. He was a staunch anti-consumerist, and many see it is an affront to his memory.


While it remains to be seen whether any lasting harm has been done to the Dodge brand, this episode certainly acts as a cautionary tale in the use of historically important media in advertising.

in: Copyright, EU/International, News

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