Dodge, the American truck company, somehow thought it would be a good idea to use the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in an advert.
The ad aired during the Super Bowl, and shows a group of people carrying out service tasks with MLK as a soundtrack. Made to promote Dodge's Ram Trucks, and its associated Ram Nation volunteer programme, the automaker used snippets in which the late great civil rights hero could be heard encouraging people to work for the common good, rather than promote their own individual success.
As inspiring a message as it may be, the use of a Martin Luther King speech to promote a company's product had many people up in arms, appalled at its tone-deafness.
Many thought it was impossible to see the incident in isolation, and pointed to the bitter irony of a civil rights speech airing during the Superbowl after black athletes being disciplined for kneeling in protest at the national anthem, and Colin Kaepernick's continued blacklisting from the NFL for being vocal in protest.
exploiting martin luther king’s legacy for a dodge ad the year kaepernick was effectively banned by the league is the epitome of everything wrong in america today pic.twitter.com/Oa1WUadD2C— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) February 5, 2018
it’s a bold move to use mlk to sell dodge rams during a game in a league that blackballed a man for speaking out against racism. yikes— lindsey (@Lindzeta) February 5, 2018
Dodge's ad was compared with the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial of 2017, in which the model and Kar-Jenner scion was depicted as effectively solving civil unrest and police brutality through handing a police officer a Pepsi.
Dodge wins the inaugural Kendall Jenner Award for Socially Aware Advertising pic.twitter.com/9atriFXrbt— Todd in the Shadows (@ShadowTodd) February 5, 2018
It gets worse.
MLK daughter Bernice and the King Center are not the holders of MLK's intellectual property, and so could have no say in how his image or words are used.
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 King Center (@TheKingCenter) February 5, 2018
In a final ironic twist, the speech the snippets were taken from, the 'Drum Major Instinct Sermon' actually preaches against obsession with material good and mentions cars as a specific example.
Tone-deaf, or deliberately provocative to boost visibility? Other brands have been accused of monetising outrage. Watch the ad here if you haven't yet and let us know what you think on Twitter and in the comments below.