05 February 2013

Why Mercedes-Benz Dosen't Get a Pass on Super Bowl Ad

Sunday while having my morning coffee, I saw the first news of Mercedes-Benz's Super Bowl ad featuring Willem Dafoe. An Irish Brother Mason had posted a link on Facebook to the Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend blog's article "Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl Ad Links Freemasonry to Satan". Needless to say I was shocked to learn that Willem Dafoe, cast as a sell-your-soul-for-a-Mercedes Devil, is wearing a Masonic style ring. If you're not aware of the story, I would urge you to read the article in Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend to get some of the back story on the ad. The video embedded to the right is the extended version of the ad, entitled "Soul". At the 13 second mark one can clearly see Dafoe sporting a square and compasses style ring. From what I understand the version of the commercial that aired during last night's game had the ring blurred out. I did see the commercial live, but did not notice the alteration. While I have no doubt in the veracity of reports that the ad was edited, I had a momentary warm fuzzy that Mercedes had realized the error of their ways. After some contemplation, those feelings evaporated.

First and foremost, the extended version of this commercial is still live on You Tube. This version has not been edited and at the time of this posting still bears witness to Mercedes-Benz gaffe. As I am writing this piece 4.8 million people have viewed this ad in it's entirety. Had Mercedes-Benz truly wanted to show remorse for their actions, the You Tube video would have been pulled or at very least edited. Also as of Monday morning, there is no statement about the ad on Mercedes-Benz USA's press release page.What's the big deal? Why is it important for Mercedes Benz to do anything else other than alter the ad shown during the Super Bowl? Surely they've done enough...haven't they? Not by a long shot.

During the Second World War Mercedes-Benz parent company, then known as Daimler-Benz and presently just Daimler, were heavily involved with the Nazi party. The connection was well documented in a 1990 book by Bernard P. Bellon, Mercedes in Peace and War. The New York Times review of the book gives a good overview of Daimler's past sins which included using slave labor in their production efforts. According to Bellon, "On a massive scale, Daimler-Benz threw tens of thousands of men and women, including foreign workers and concentration camp inmates, into the battle to produce engines for the German air force". I would venture an educated guess that given the mass internment of Freemasons in concentration camps, Daimler-Benz likely profited from the forced labor of our Brothers. Even if there was not a single Mason who was forced to turn a bolt for Daimler-Benz, the company certainly profited from and supported a system that oppressed Freemasons. (There are no accurate records to the number of Masons interred in Nazi concentration camps, but the Chris Hodapp's Freemasonry for Dummies estimates that 80,000 to 200,000 died in those camps. If Mercedes can set the record straight on Masons being pressed into their service, I would welcome the edification.) Sorry Mercedes-Benz, that warm fuzzy feeling just went south for me.

Monday morning I decided to call up both Mercedes-Benz and the New York ad agency who created "Soul" Merkley and Partners. Mercedes-Benz actually called me back with a curious story. According to the Mercedes-Benz representative, they had been assured by Merkley and Partners that the ring in "Soul" wasn't a Masonic ring and there was nothing for me to worry about. Judge for yourself. Here's a screen shot of the ring used in "Soul" with a square and compasses inset. In discussing this with one Brother, he pointed out that Dafoe's ring doesn't have a true square and therefore it isn't a Masonic ring. I will concede that the bottom portion of Dafoe's ring is not at a 90 degree angle. However using the old trademark test I was taught in a Business Law class a zillion years ago, if you're mimicking the "look and feel" of a trademark you're in violation of trademark law. The same principle applies to this situation. Since the square and compasses is the most easily recognizable of Masonic symbolism, the ring certainly does have the "look and feel" of  a square and compasses.  An imperfect square does not give Merkley and Partners a pass either.  No matter what the ring may or may not be, it as been identified with Masonry by both members and non-members. The damage has been done.
Merkley and Partners has yet to return my call. I was involved in a discussion with fellow Masons about the commercial on the Merkley and Partners' Facebook Fan Page  Monday night. Magically Tuesday morning the two threads about "Soul", in which Masons were posting their displeasure about the ad, have been deleted. Both Mercedes-Benz and Merkley and Partners obviously want this issue to simply go away. Don't let it. Contact both groups and let them know where you stand on this matter.

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