The 50-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. speech that Ram used to back this controversial Super Bowl ad included a passage hinting at what the civil rights icon really thought about advertisers: He called them "gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion," suggesting that, for instance, their tactics manipulate people into thinking that "in order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car."
Ram, of course, left that part of his speech out of its ad, which came under heavy criticism for using MLK's words to sell a truck. A version of the spot overlayed with King's critique of advertising soon circulated on social media, adding to the backlash against Ram.
Ram owner Fiat Chrysler Automobile defended the service-themed spot after the game, saying the company collaborated with MLK's estate on it. Eric D. Tidwell, managing director of the licensor of the estate, a group called Intellectual Properties Management Inc., said the organization reviewed the ad to "ensure it met our standard integrity clearances," according to Slate and others. "We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King's philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others."
As in many matters, moreover, it was hard to tell whether the outcry in social media reflected most viewers' reactions. The Wednesday after the game, research firm Morning Consult said it had asked 1,579 people to watch the spot, give feedback and answer follow-ups. Just 16% said the ad gave them a less favorable view of Ram, compared to 38% who said it gave them a more favorable view. African-Americans in the survey also liked the ad more often than white respondents. But there was a split on whether Ram should have used the King speech: "52% of African-Americans said the ad's use of MLK's speech was appropriate, 38% inappropriate," Morning Consult said. "In contrast, 38% of whites said it was appropriate, 44% inappropriate."
Ram's other spot in the game, "Icelandic Vikings," didn't quite draw the same heat.
BRAND: Ram Trucks
QUARTER AIRED: Q2