Agency: Omnicom Group's Merkley Partners
The narrative of this advertisement has the devil, or Satan, trying to convince an everyman consumer to sell his soul for a luxury car but failing when the affordable price tag is revealed. Entertaining, except to those for whom Satan is more than a metaphor or myth, but many Freemasons and anti-masons saw something far more insidious in a ring worn by the tempter.
Within hours of this ad first running on air, online masonic blogs and petitions were condemning its perceived anti-masonic message, while Christian websites used the image to reinforce their belief that Freemasonry is satanic.
The emblem is not really the masonic square and compassesthe bottom figure is not a right angle and the top figure does not taper to points but it is hard not to believe that it was intended to give that impression. It is also easy to assume that Mercedes-Benz calculated the negative blowback from Freemasons, subtracted it from the benefits of creating an online viral meme, and decided it would be good for sales.
Only days later, On 6 February, several masonic blogs as well as the Grand Lodge of Washington's website posted Mercedes-Benz's apology posted on Mercedes-Benz USA's Facebook page in the comment section under the commercial's preview post:
Mercedes-Benz USA To all concerned:
We apologize to anyone offended by the use of the ring worn in our commercial, 'Soul,' that ran during the Super Bowl.
It was not our intention to make any association with the Freemasons or any organization. In fact, neither we nor our advertising agency were aware that the ring could be associated with the Freemasons. To avoid any confusion going forward, we will modify the commercial prior to any future television airings.
The exact same apology appeared shortly thereafter on the Merkley+Partners Facebook page.
Although theyor some anonymous employee did apologise, this single comment posted to a single Facebook thread at 12:45 pm Wednesday, 6 February, was buried so quickly that few will ever see it. Their apology is also disingenuous. Millions of dollars do not get spent on an advertisement without every element, including the rings worn by the principal actor, being discussed and decided in advance. If the ring was not intended to evoke the masonic square and compasses, then they should say what it was intended to evoke.
Omnicom Group's Merkley+Partners, One ad in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, 3 February 2013. Released 30 January 2013.