Were the criticisms fair?

As expected, Super Bowl LII had its fair share of commercials. There were some good ones, and there were some bad ones. None of them, though, were as controversial as the Ram commercial that used a portion of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech. To say that it wasn’t well-received would be an understatement. It was panned, criticized, and obliterated for using the speech as a means to sell Ram trucks, a clear misinterpretation of the actual message of King’s speech. But given what we’ve come to know since, was it really a case of insensitivity on Ram’s part or was it all a big misunderstanding of the ad’s real purpose?

I understand the initial negative response towards the commercial. I found it a little too self-serving myself, not because I thought Ram was intentionally using the message of King’s speech in a bad light, but because it was doing it — indirectly, at least — to peddle its products.

It’s come to light since the ad drew backlash that the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., through its manager, Eric D. Tidwell, made the decision to allow King’s sermon to be used in the ad. “When Ram approached the King Estate with the idea of featuring Dr. King’s voice in a new ‘Built To Serve’ commercial, we were pleasantly surprised at the existence of the Ram Nation volunteers and their efforts,” Tidwell said in a statement to The Washington Post.

“We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others,” Tidwell added.

Unfortunately, the King Center, which was founded by his wife, Coretta Scott, tweeted that center and its chief executive, Bernice King, the youngest of King’s children, did not approve the use of King’s speech in the commercial. “Neither @TheKingCenter nor @BerniceKing is the entity that approves the use of #MLK’s words or imagery for use in merchandise, entertainment (movies, music, artwork, etc) or advertisement, including tonight’s @Dodge #SuperBowl commercial,” the tweet said.

Clearly, someone from King’s side dropped the ball there. If the estate gave the go-signal to use the speech, why wasn’t his family notified of the decision?

For its part, FCA defended the commercial, saying that it “worked closely with the representatives of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate to receive the necessary approvals and estate representatives were a very important part of the creative process every step of the way.”

Regardless of what you think, the commercial will live in infamy now, even if it probably wasn’t the intention.


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