It’s that time of year when the Big Guns roll-out their big ads. VW have some form in this area with last years Vader effort.
This one is hitting the headlines with many protesting racist overtones. VW, whose U.S. headquarters are in Herndon, says critics have it all wrong.
“If you look at the whole intent of the commercial for us, it’s about making people happy,” said Scott Vazin, a VW spokesman. “The idea is to put a smile on your face. It’s simple and human and humorous.”
Perhaps, he said, “some people are over-thinking this one.”
The company said it tested the ad with consumers, including about 100 Jamaicans, and got no negative feedback. In the hours since the issue blew up, Vazin said, the company has gotten “many” positive comments from the public, including Jamaicans. “The response has been: ‘We get it. Accents don’t have a color,’ ” he said.
That’s what Richard Prince, who writes Journal-isms, a blog about diversity issues in the news business, says. “It’s good to remember that there are white and Asian Jamaicans, too, and they speak with what we would call a Jamaican accent,” he said.
Prince added: “It reminds me of anyone taken with another culture who comes back home and tries to emulate it. Think of all the white reggae and hip-hop fans.”
Interesting debate particularly in the US where in an online polling of Today viewers more than 93% said they like the spot.
So does Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s minister of tourism and entertainment. “We view it as a compliment,” says McNeill. “People should get into their inner Jamaica and get happy.” He’s even negotiating with VW for some sort of co-branding.
Is it racist – no – Does it veer towards using racial stereotypes – yes to a degree, but as most know this is a common accent amongst white Jamaicans and perhaps it is complimentary? It walks the line, but probably comes out on top. More no doubt to come on this one.