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Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Use in Dodge Ram Ad Infuriates Viewers During Super Bowl

The commercial has sparked controversy on usage rights over Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1985 speech.

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Dodge Ram + Martin Luther King Jr. =?

A speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the last thing one would expect to hear narrate a car commercial. Dodge proved last night why it was something no one had neither thought about nor wanted.

In the 30 second ad, a montage of U.S Marines and American families play across the screen as King’s 1985 speech “The Drum Major Instinct” is heard in the background. The ad is a part of Dodge’s “Built to Serve” campaign, a volunteer program. While intentions were good, controversy sparked when The King Center, the nonprofit started by Coretta Scott King, tweeted no involvement with the ad.

It was later revealed that the King Estate worked with Dodge Ram to create the commercial. In a statement to Slate Eric Tidwell, the Managing Director of Intellectual Properties Management, Inc., which is the “exclusive licensor” of the estate of Martin Luther King, Jr said:

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. We learned that as a volunteer group of Ram owners, they serve others through everything from natural disaster relief, to blood drives, to local community volunteer initiatives. Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances. We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s “Built To Serve” Super Bowl program.

Even with estate support, viewers took to social media to voice their opinions.

What do you think? Check out the ad below!

Are you looking for digital journalism training and experience? Are you a journalism major who wants to take your career to the next level? CMN’s Digital Journalism course gives you real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to journalism influencers and mentors, and a great place to display your work. You can get academic credit too. Check out the Digital Journalism Course here.

Laura Eley serves as a Digital Producer for the College Media Network. She attends Spelman College in Atlanta, GA where she majors in English. In her free time, Laura enjoys brunch, cooking, and binge watching Law and Order SVU for an unhealthy amount of time.

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