In 2006 Volkswagen launched an ad campaign called “Un-pimp my ride” featuring actors imitating VW engineers with German accents and spoofing hip-hop. Racist? People loved the humor. Two years ago Volkswagen launched their “Das Auto” campaign with a little kid wearing a Darth Vader costume and imitating the Star War’s character’s accent. Racist? It was on many “top ads” list that year and has been viewed 56 million times on YouTube.
And now comes word of a Volkswagen commercial slated to air during Sunday’s Super Bowl game which features an actor portraying a squeaky clean All-American/Minnesota image, but imitating a Jamaican accent. Racist?
Bam! Then there was controversy.
It seems that making playful fun of Germans, Hip Hop, and Star Wars is all fun and games—but a white-bread Midwestern dude speaking in a laid-back Jamaican audience is a step to far… yea mon.
Pop cultural guru Barbara Lippert is quoted as not being amused. "It made me uncomfortable to see all of those white people in an office setting doing this," she says (apparently not noticing the Asian actor as one of the primary characters, "I found it offensive." While Mediapost.com's Barbara Lippert said, "Didn't anyone look at this? This is so racist. It's just saying that black people are happy."
Um, well, I think it is trying to say that all people SHOULD be as happy as the Jamaican stereotype.
Clearly, VW had no intention of creating a racist ad. The “Get Happy” campaign tries to suggest how happy everyone would be if they just owned a Volkswagen. They are using the stereotype of the laid-back—but very happy, Jamaican to present their case.
The commercial uses a new rendition of the Partridge Family theme song “Get Happy” by reggae icon Jimmy Cliff.
And while American media critics are getting their knickers in a twist, Jamaican government officials issued a statement to diffuse the issue. "I believe the commercial is also a tribute to the popularity of reggae music worldwide and I salute Jimmy Cliff for being a true Jamaican ambassador through his outstanding music. 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."
For their part, Volkswagen is currently standing by their ad. Marketing representitive Tim Mahoney defended the ad when appearing on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," stated that the company had conducted research, including consultations with Jamaicans, to ensure the ad was racially sensitive. "There is no thought to pulling it," Mahoney added referring to the spots planned airing during Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Yea, mon. Get Happy. And "Don't fret me brother. The sticky bun come soon."
2013 "Get Happy" Jamaican Midwesterner
2010 Darth Vader Super Bowl Spot
2006 "Un-pimp My Ride"