SBD/January 30, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Volkswagen Insists It Will Air Controversial Super Bowl Ad Despite Claims It Is Racist

Volkswagen insists it "will broadcast" during Super Bowl XLVII a controversial ad that some critics say "is racist," according to Bruce Horovitz of USA TODAY. The automaker's ad features a "white Midwesterner who feigns a Jamaican accent.” VW Chief Product & Marketing Officer Tim Mahoney said, “There is no thought to pulling it.” Several critics, including's Barbara Lippert, have been outspoken against the ad since it began showing online Monday. However, Horovitz reports the "social-media buzz" has shown "most folks liking it.” A USA Today online poll found that 93% of viewers "like the ad.” Jamaican Tourism & Entertainment Minister Wykeham McNeill said, “We view it as a compliment” (USA TODAY, 1/30). TV personality Star Jones said she was “not offended in the least tiny bit.” Jones: “Jamaica is known as what? A happy place and people who work really hard, and so if that’s the way you’re going to convey Jamaica, I’m all for it.” NBC contributor Dr. Nancy Snyderman said as soon as the office worker began speaking like a Jamaican, “I just found myself smiling. I don’t think it’s racist.” Jones added, “I would have liked to see another person of color within that office” ("Today," NBC, 1/30). In DC, Paul Farhi writes, "The mini-brushfire over the commercial is both a potential bane and a boon for VW.” It is a bane because “who wants an $8 million ad buy to turn into a debate about racism?” But it could be a boon because “a little controversy isn’t necessarily a bad thing for something whose entire purpose is to draw attention” (WASHINGTON POST, 1/30). Founder Nicole Lapin: "This is huge business, of course, and they love the fact we’re talking about this. It’s just adding to their free marketing” (“Showbiz Tonight,” HLN, 1/29).

COMEDY FODDER: Comedian D.L. Hughley said of the ad, “I can’t understand what I’m supposed to be mad about. I don’t get it. Is Spike Lee behind this again? If Jamaicans can make a movie where they’re bobsledding, then Minnesotans can speak with a Jamaican accent” ("GMA," ABC, 1/30). Comedian Jeff Ross said, "If they want him to stop talking like that in the ad, they should just have the cops pull him over. He’ll start talking white again immediately" ("Showbiz Tonight," HLN, 1/29).
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