Speed Reads

Super Bowl LII

The Super Bowl truck ad with a Martin Luther King quote drew from a sermon against consumerism

Among the less popular ads at Super Bowl LII was a spot with a voiceover by Martin Luther King, Jr., in which the preacher's exhortation to service, grace, and love is used to urge viewers to purchase a Dodge Ram truck.

The incongruity was glaring, but it gets worse: The recording came from a 1968 sermon in which King railed against consumerism and the "drum major instinct," which he defined as the desire to "be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade." He specifically critiqued new car commercials as an example of the destructive ethic of envy, waste, and pride he had in mind:

You know, those [advertising] gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you're just buying that stuff. [...] It often causes us to live above our means. It's nothing but the drum major instinct. [King, via ThinkProgress]

In fact, the passage the Dodge commercial quotes is part of King's closing call to reject the "drum major instinct" and live in service, not competition, to others. Watch below an edit of the ad from Current Affairs. In this version, the voiceover is a bit more on-topic. Bonnie Kristian