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Super Bowl

Fiat Chrysler's 'Martin Luther King' Ad Draws Social Media Backlash

By Published on .

In a five-ad Super Bowl blitz, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles used a Martin Luther King Jr. speech, a classic scene from "Jurassic Park" and Queen's "We Will Rock You" to market its Jeep and Ram brands. The ad haul, totaling 240 seconds, tied Anheuser-Busch InBev for the most air time in the game.

But the MLK ad drew heat on social media with some critics accusing the automaker of appropriating the civil rights leader's words for commercial gain.

FCA's approach hued to tactics long used by global chief marketing officer Olivier Francois, who is fond of calling on historical figures and movie and music stars backed by montages of vehicles and everyday people. He also has a tendency to source ideas from a wide array of agencies, often making last-minute decisions on the winners.

This year's lineup included ads from agencies that have previously worked with the automaker, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, FCB Chicago and DDB Chicago. But two newcomers on FCA also made the cut, Arnold Worldwide and Highdive, a six-person Chicago-based boutique agency led by two DDB Chicago veterans, Mark Gross and Chad Broude.

Below, a look at the five ads:

'Built to Serve'
Highdive's 60-second ad, which is called "Built to Serve," aired in the second quarter for Ram and made use of an MLK speech delivered 50 years ago today (Feb. 4, 1968) in which the civil rights icon declared that "everybody can be great" because everybody can serve. The spot melds images of a farmer, barber, fishermen, teacher, military members and other everyday people.

It drew a polarizing reaction on Twitter.

Some people liked it.

'Anti Manifesto'

Arnold's spot that ran in the fourth quarter for Jeep seemed to almost be riffing (perhaps unintentionally) on FCA's frequent use of lofty ideals, including the MLK ad. The 30-second spot, called "Anti Manifesto," mocked the use in other car ads of "grandiose speeches" and "claims to some overarching human truth." The ad made the all-new Wrangler the star, rather than a celebrity, song or poetic device.

'Icelandic Vikings'
Goodby's 60-second ad for Ram, called "Icelandic Vikings," aired in the first quarter and made use of a rare, up-tempo version of Queen's stadium anthem "We Will Rock You" that was recorded in 1977 by the BBC. The ad shows real-life vikings traversing the ocean while towing a Ram truck. They are on their way to the Minneapolis site of the Super Bowl, seemingly prepared to witness the Minnesota Vikings NFL team. But the vikings are disappointed to find out the Vikings aren't in the game, and head back overseas.

The spot was filmed in Iceland and directed by the legendary Joe Pytka, who has more than 80 Super Bowl ads under his belt. With its heavy Super Bowl reference, the spot would seemingly need to be heavily edited if FCA wants to use it in other programming. Ram has been using vikings references in other spots that have a similar look.

'Jeep Jurassic'
DDB Chicago and Universal Pictures teamed up on a 60-second ad that ran in third quarter that paid homage to a classic scene in "Jurassic Park" movie in which Jeff Goldblum's character is chased by a Tyrannosaurus rex while riding in the back of a Jeep. The ad flashes forward to present-day showing Goldblum doing the chasing behind the wheel of the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler. It turns out to be a fantasy, with the final scene showing him at a Jeep dealership. The spot was directed by Colin Trevorrow, who is the co-writer and executive producer of "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," which hits theaters on June 22.

'The Road'
FCB Chicago is behind a 30-second ad that ran in the second quarter for the 2019 Jeep Cherokee. The poetic spot portrays off-roading as providing an escape from paved roads, both practically and metaphorically. The gravelly voice-over sounds a bit like Clint Eastwood, who famously narrated Chrysler's "Halftime in America" that ran in the 2012 Super Bowl. But don't be fooled. The narration was supplied by an ad agency exec, Todd Tilford, global executive VP for content and development at FCB Global.

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