Super Bowl Sunday is basically an American holiday. This is why companies spend millions on 30-second ads to pitch their company to an enormous audience while performers perform for free. While this can lead to success, it can also lead to controversy.
This year, one of the most talked about commercials was a Dodge Ram truck ad. Now usually truck commercials feature big, ripped men tossing heavy objects into trucks or the truck driving through rough terrain while it is nearly flooding outside.
But this year, Dodge wanted to switch it up by overplaying a sermon from the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King on top of a montage of athletes, rescuers, construction workers and military personnel. At first glance, the emphasis on service in the commercial resembled that of an ad for some humanitarian organization or the military. But, it isn’t until the very end when the viewer “Built to Serve.”
Twitter users reacted to the commercial similarly to how they acted toward Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad...
Consumers know that your product isn’t going to end world peace. So, why create an advertisement with the perception that your product or your company contributes to the world as such? Just show your typical truck commercial and go. Not too long after the commercial aired, a YouTube video edited Rev. Dr. King’s true feelings toward capitalism over the original Ram commercial. The video has since been pulled from YouTube, but it can be found in various tweets. Perhaps Dodge used Dr.King’s speech as a nod to Black History Month, but to most viewers, it just came off as disrespectful to Dr. King’s legacy. A legacy that was filled with advocacy for not only African-Americans but all disadvantaged Americans.
Aside from the eyebrow-raising ad, Justin Timberlake’s halftime appearance also faced criticism for a number of reasons. One being why Timberlake was allowed to perform in the first place after his contribution to one of the most scandalous live performances in American history. This live performance being the 2004 Halftime show featuring Timberlake, Janet Jackson, and Jackson’s breast. Yes, Jackson didn’t just have a wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show, Timberlake was the one to reveal her breast to the audience. But, Jackson was the one to face criticism for the event and was even banned for life from the Super Bowl. Also, prior to his performance, rumors were circulating that a hologram of Prince was going to accompany Timberlake with his performance.
Thankfully, this was just a rumor and Timberlake ended up performing Prince’s hit “I Would Die 4 U” while a large projection of Prince in his signature purple played behind him.
Were these Super Bowl controversies marketing misunderstandings or a part of a larger issue of exploitation of dead icons? Although the estates approved of the commercial and Timberlake’s tribute, fans did not.