[lg policy] Volkswagen Superbowl ad and Jamaican accent

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 30 16:18:46 UTC 2013

Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY8:14p.m. EST January 29, 2013

VW ad about a happy-go-lucky white guy who tells office mates to be
happy in his Jamaican accent has been criticized by some.

No, Darth Vader — spurned by Volkswagen for this year's Super Bowl
commercial — hasn't concocted cultural revenge. But the force is
suddenly hitting VW, with vocal critics claiming its big game spot —
this time featuring a white, Midwesterner who feigns a Jamaican accent
— is racist.

VW insists it will broadcast the ad during Sunday's game on CBS.
"There is no thought to pulling it," says Tim Mahoney, chief product
and marketing office at Volkswagen of America. It began showing online
Monday and since then, has been a social-media buzz saw — with most
folks liking it, but some critics totally trashing it.

Some would like them to be joined by this VW ad about a happy-go-lucky
white guy who tells his office mates to be happy in his Jamaican
accent. "It's pretty horrific," says Ricki Fairley-Brown, president of
the multicultural marketing agency Dove Marketing. "Why do they have a
white guy from Minnesota faking a Jamaican accent?"

Even more troubled by the spot is Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, chief
hispanic marketing strategist at Walton Isaacson, an African-American,
Gay/Lesbian and Hispanic agency. "What happens in this ad is that the
culture becomes a punch line, and that is offensive."

Pop cultural guru Barbara Lippert is not amused, either. "It made me
uncomfortable to see all of those white people in an office setting
doing this," she says. "I found it offensive."
Even then, she says, after offering a similar commentary on NBC's
Today Show, "I've heard from thousands of people telling me to lighten
up." An online polling of Today viewers concurred with that sentiment.
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.

As for the actor who stars in the spot, well, he's just hoping it gets to air.

"People are entitled to their own opinion," says Erik Nicolaisen, the
33-year-old actor. But for a second opinion, he asked his
brother-in-law, who is from Kingston, Jamaica. "He loves it."



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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