While the Ram’s Martin Luther King Jr. Super Bowl ad generated much controversy for having commercialized his speech and twisting its message, it generated millions in publicity revenue, reports Jeff Green of Bloomberg. By one estimate, it gained the company around $8 million. The commercial spread around the internet, becoming one of YouTube’s hottest videos and receiving wide coverage from Twitter to national news outlets. While the content of the ad may have seemed a bit out of touch, this may have even been planned, given its immense commercial success. One way or another, it launched Ram right into the nation’s headlines.
Using big stars in commercials is a long Super Bowl tradition, but Ram’s tactless use of Martin Luther King Jr. is a mistake that could cost the brand dearly, suggests Brian Sternberg of Variety. The internet went ballistic over the use of King’s dignified speech to sell cars. Every year, there seems to be a Super Bowl ad that drops the ball and Ram’s commercial did so this time. While companies have managed to blend controversy and celebrity into a cocktail of good publicity, the tone-deaf use of a civil rights leader for such a commercial purpose will likely backfire. This could hurt the company’s sales as it has enraged far too many.