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FACE OFF: Ram’s Super Bowl ad, when what is necessary is done poorly

The Super Bowl ad made use of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s

The Super Bowl ad made use of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "The Drum Major Instant" sermon.

Andy Dunklee

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One of the unofficial hallmarks of the Super Bowl, besides the actual game, is the advertisements that are played during the commercial breaks. With over 103 million viewers and a price tag of $5 million per 30 second advertisement slot, companies are hard pressed to produce the highest quality advertisements they can come up with.

One advertisement that has come under fire recently was produced by Fiat-Chrysler in support for their Dodge Ram line of pickup trucks. The ad featured a series of images of everyday Americans performing acts of community service, along with their Ram trucks, to the backdrop of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon.

The idea of the commercial was to celebrate community service and honor a historic civil rights activist and that is fine until you start to look at the semantics of it. First of which would be the speech itself in which King expressly ridiculed the notion of people purchasing cars they can’t afford, “Do you ever see people buy cars that they can’t even begin to buy in terms of their income? (Amen) [laughter] You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford.” 

It isn’t exactly a state secret that King wasn’t a fan of major corporations and couple that with the issue of cultural appropriation and it’s pretty clear why people would have an issue with the commercial. However, while it isn’t a well thought out advertisement, I would argue it had the right intent and we need more corporations to produce advertisements of a similar nature.

We currently live in an age where civil rights tensions are at the highest they have been in decades and with our current Commander-in-Chief’s rhetoric, it only looks like it will become more exacerbated with each passing day.

Advertisements hold a special rhetorical place in our minds. Their ability to convey ideas quickly and seamlessly to the masses play a vital role in shaping our collective consciousness. They can help de-stigmatize hot button issues and allow for more constructive dialogue between people.

Just take the “More Warmth in Conversations” McDonald’s ad from 2016 that was aired in Taiwan as an example. That advertisement featured a gay son coming out to his father and his father accepting him while they drink McCafe. When the ad was aired, gay marriage hadn’t been legalized yet in the country and there was still a large stigma around the LGBTQ community in general.

The ad was in no way a tipping point or decisive moment in the country’s political debate surrounding gay marriage, but it’s undeniable that the ad was able to help foster a more healthy discussion around the issue and that is something we should want from our country’s business leaders.

While the Ram advertisement has its flaws, we should want corporations to produce material that can help foster good communication for society or, at the very least, make up for the lack of example that is being set by our current presidential administration.

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FACE OFF: Ram’s Super Bowl ad, when what is necessary is done poorly