• Germany's news in English
 

'Racist' VW Super Bowl ad offends Americans

Published: 01 Feb 2013 09:00 GMT+01:00

As in previous years, German car manufacturer Volkswagen will take advantage of the massive Super Bowl audience - the event drew 111.3 million viewers last year - to screen a special ad in the hope of jump-starting sales in the United States.

However, this year VW seems to have misjudged its US audience, and has broken a run of huge hits. In 2011 a VW ad went viral featuring a little boy dressed in a Darth Vader costume who fails to bring things to life with "The Force" until his father secretly remotely starts a Passat.

But Volkswagen's ad this year, in which a white man from Minnesota cheers up his office co-workers by telling them to take it easy and be happy in a Jamaican accent, has been slammed as racist, culturally insensitive and offensive.

"No worries mon," the man tells his glum-faced colleagues in a lift, "everyting will be alright." He then lifts office morale by taking co-workers for a ride in his VW, with the implication that owning a German-engineered car makes you as happy as a Jamaican. "Get in. Get happy," the ad concludes.

Since VW released the ad on Monday US media pundits have slammed the ad and described it as insensitive, offensive and shocking. "I found it offensive. It's racist." Barbara Lippert well-known journalist at Mediapost.com told NBC's Today Show.

Still, not everyone has been so uptight about the ad - Jamaica's Tourism Ministry has told people to chill out, and on Tuesday spoke out in support of the commercial.

"I urge persons all across the globe to do exactly what the commercial portrays, which is to tap into your inner Jamaican and get happy," Jamaican Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill said in widely-reported statement to the media.

The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

08:43 February 1, 2013 by jodendal
what a great ad sure made me smile :)
09:03 February 1, 2013 by ChrisRea
Yeah, I guess it is racist to suggest that Jamaicans have a positive approach to life and that we could use it as well in our business activities, even if we come from Minnesota.
09:38 February 1, 2013 by the.local.reader
you Americans are way too sensitive: read neo-nazi news and foreigners being insulted news in Germany.
09:43 February 1, 2013 by DerHirsch
so, what does this say about the white people who live in Jamaica and speak with a Jamaican accent. Are they racists?
09:50 February 1, 2013 by ATM
I am a Black American. I think some people are too uptight. I remember

When they just didn't like Slim Shady cause he was a white Rapper. What is wrong with a bright happy attitude. Some People need to focus on real issues
10:35 February 1, 2013 by Berlin fuer alles
Rascist yes. But in a positive way. I thought it was funny.

Barbara Lippert should take a chill-out pill and turn her frown the other way. Am I being sexist now? LOL
11:41 February 1, 2013 by Eastard
Some people are offended for a living... USA is NOT offended by this ad at all... As is typical, the vocal 0.00000001% of America has voiced offense and sold it to the press.. If anything it was a complement to Jamaicans for their recognizable accent and pleasant disposition... A better question would be to ask what race this would offend... Jamaicans are a natural mix of at least two... There was an oriental in the back seat who spoke this way too ... so I see all races included...To me it suggested that if you drive a VW bug you will become laid back and stress free...
12:11 February 1, 2013 by raandy
Eastard, thats right, this is blown way out of proportion and the few people the toxic ones that find fault ,are always looking for an issue to get up on the soap box and be heard.We go from there to "All America "is offended.

I liked the commercial and see nothing offensive in it.
12:48 February 1, 2013 by ichbines
I do not think it is very racist...but it is very boring and stupid
13:14 February 1, 2013 by wegosolo
There is a fine line between racism and parody. Was this racist? No. Humorous? Not really, although it has a certain corny magnetism that only suburban middle class Whites would find hysterical. Though horribly boring, the commercial certainly speaks to its target market.

As far as Mrs. Lippert is concerned, well, she comes from that second wave of North East American Feminists who's only validation in life came from "shouting Discrimination first...think critically later." Its not her fault...she's just trying to remain relevant.
13:31 February 1, 2013 by AClassicRed
Honestly, I do not remember any protests or claims of racism several years ago when VW had a older, Caucasian scientist looking guy who was using hip-hop slang, gestures and body movements. As I recall from personal knowledge, having a wide range of family and friends who are thusly: made up of many different ethnic groups, it was actually very popular and quoted as funny across the US.
14:50 February 1, 2013 by hech54
Let's look at the big picture. Jamaica is not a "race"....it's a country.
15:21 February 1, 2013 by blackboot11
both Germany and the USA are a little sensitive about their respective 'N' words, both being from a dark period in their histories....
15:27 February 1, 2013 by Bigfoot76
I doubt very many Americans found that racist. Anyone who did should explain why they find it racist rather than just spurting out the word.
15:27 February 1, 2013 by zat_xela
What a great way to draw even more attention to your ad. I'm thinking VW paid Mrs. Lippert to raise a stink...no publicity is bad publicity.
16:51 February 1, 2013 by Bigfoot76
I checked NFL.com, nothing mentioned. Cnn.com Nothing. ESPN.com mentions the add in a story about early advertisement releases. It says at the very end of the story

"Something to watch for, Lippert said: Whether Volkswagen changes its Game Day spot that features a Minnesotan man with a Jamaican accent, which faced some criticism in the days leading up to the Super Bowl from some people who deemed it culturally insensitive."

If NFL.com and/or CNN.com are not mentioning it and ESPN.com barely bring it up, it is not as big as whoever at the local.de would like to make us think.

Honestly, why don't you just revert to your colleagues across the ocean and start hammering on Ray Lewis retiring and the Harbaugh brothers coaching against each other instead of trying to sensationalize something that very few people really had any complaint about? Sad reporting Local.
18:09 February 1, 2013 by ksierka
"culturally insensitive" or not, I loved this commercial so much, it made me cry. I live in the US and drive a Camry. Now, I want to buy another VW. I had a '68 bug when I was 17 yrs old, in the 1970's and loved it! This commercial should hit the 'sweet spot' in Colorado, with it's new marijuana for personal use law. Those Jamaican vacations really can make you 'happy'. So, C'mon get HAPPY!
21:53 February 1, 2013 by KamiZ
I don't think the ad's racist but I do object to it being completely unfunny and quite lame.
22:27 February 1, 2013 by Staticjumper
"..well-known journalist at Mediapost.com"..., Barbara who? I didn't even know that NBC's Today Show is still on the air. The first time I heard about this commercial was here in the Local. Blown WAY out of proportion.
22:49 February 1, 2013 by Landmine
Barbara Lippert is an uptight broom flier that defiantly needs more than anyone to chill the f@#$ out...
01:27 February 2, 2013 by Ricardoh
No matter what you say or do someone will find it offensive.
02:55 February 2, 2013 by Eric1
I'm not offended. I am offended by those that are offended by anything they see. There is big money in "Big Racism".
05:01 February 2, 2013 by hsbrodt
THIS IS OLD NEWS. The ad has been online through various sources for a week. I think its not VW's best but if the Jamaicans are cool with it, then it's fine.
07:10 February 2, 2013 by Drewsky
I haven't seen the ad, but I doubt that it's offensive. When I read this article, I immediately thought about when John Candy did a brief Jamaican accent in the film 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles'. It was just some light humor and I'm sure that's all this VW commercial is. Who doesn't fake a Jamaican or Indian or even American accent once in a while? Lighten up, already !
17:30 February 2, 2013 by Vargaz
Don't worry about offending the Americans, regardless of race, they have a national attention span of 6 seconds (like VINE) thus can only remember the beginning of the ad - or anything for that matter. My favorite quote overheard heard while watching last year's Superbrawl in an American "sportsbar" - "What a GRRREAT commerical for that umm, beer. What kind of beer was that again?" The Jamaicans have better memories, even fried on ganja.
22:17 February 2, 2013 by charlenej
In the States, your best bet is to not mock, imitate or dress up like other races. It's just a different history. Blackface (that I see in Germany every Fasching) would get you an a**-whipping in the States faster than you could blink. And pulling back your eyes and speaking "Chinese" will also not go over, but I see that here, as well.

The commercial obviously offended some people in the U.S. So if they don't want to show it there, they shouldn't have to. If the Jamaicans are fine with it, then they can show it in Jamaica. But speaking of the Jamaican ministry - Jamaicans in the States and Jamaicans on the island are not necessarily on the same page about this stuff. Different experiences and all.
05:19 February 4, 2013 by JonMotivates
The headline is wrong. Americans did not find this offensive or racist. MORONS found it offensive and racist.
17:06 February 4, 2013 by Sastry.M
Sine when in history did the Germans began to be associated with racist sentiments, colonial adventures and slave trade?
22:29 February 4, 2013 by whotmewory
Get a life!
17:59 February 17, 2013 by nadom
Anything that hints of anything of another race is facist to our stupid news media. To the general american public there was nothing racist. Our news media is in bed with our excuse for a president and wants to cause division amoungs the populance. So to the ones who things it was racists, screw off.
13:59 March 1, 2013 by owlguard
1st as an American in the midwest, Iwas not offended by the car ad, The ad just failed. It was too unreal.

2nd Kudos to the Jamacan tourism department for stepping up and takin advantage of the idea tha Jamacans are happier and more relaxed than the rest of the world.
Today's headlines
Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'
Sudeten Germans practising traditional dance at a gathering in 2014. Photo: DPA

Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'

The Sudeten German Homeland Association has given up its claim to the group's former home in parts of the Czech Republic, quieting one of the final echoes of the Second World War. READ  

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan
Families Minister Manuela Schwesig. Photo: DPA

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan

Families Minister Manuela Schwesig confirmed on Sunday that she wants a new law allowing women to compare their wages with men doing similar work, provoking angry reactions from employers. READ  

Police wind down Bremen terror response
Heavily-armed police on patrol outside Bremen cathedral. Photo: DPA

Police wind down Bremen terror response

Police in Bremen said that the risk of a terrorist attack had been reduced in the city after they arrested two suspected arms dealers. The city remains under high alert, with special protection for the Jewish community. READ  

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone
Photo: DPA

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Sunday Greece's new hard-left government needs "a bit of time" but is committed to implementing necessary reforms to resolve its debt crisis. READ  

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo
Photo: DPA

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo

An estimated 375 people turned out for the Germany-based PEGIDA movement's first demonstration in Britain on Saturday, but were outnumbered by a 2,000-strong crowd of counter-protesters, police said. READ  

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote
Photo: DPA

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed Friday to "start working hard" to implement vital reforms in the stricken eurozone country, after Germany's parliament approved a four month extension to its bailout. READ  

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce
Photo: DPA

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared the killing of three government troops by pro Moscow rebels a "serious breach of the ceasefire", during a telephone call Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her office said. READ  

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps
Trouble at the top. Photo: DPA

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps

Germany's highest civil court ruled in favour of a man who swapped the carpet in his new apartment for parquet flooring, incurring the wrath of the retired couple who lived below him over his loud footsteps. READ  

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday
Photo: DPA

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday

Teachers all over the country are expected to stike starting Monday, German education trade union GEW said, after negotiations with the wage commission of the federal states (TdL) failed to achieve results. READ  

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes
Andre Shepherd at the European Court of Justice in June 2014. Photo: DPA

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes

American soldier Andre Shepherd, who applied for asylum in Germany as a conscientious objector against the war in Iraq after going AWOL from his unit, saw a judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) go against him on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,157
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd