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.