Volkswagen’s 2013 Super Bowl Ad Turns Suburban Office Workers Into Jamaicans
Volkswagen departed from its recent trend of cute but safe Super Bowl spots this year. After 2011’s pint-sized Darth Vader and 2012’s plump pup, VW is causing some ruckus with a Minnesotan man who is so happy about his new Volkswagen he starts sporting a Jamaican accent. The ad is set to the tune of Jimmy Cliff’s rendition of the Partridge Family’s “Get Happy.”
But New York Times columnist Charles Blow had to start a fuss by seeing racism where there was none. As a guest on CNN’s “Starting Point,” Blow said he didn’t like the spot at all. “It’s like blackface with voices,” he said.
I’m sorry, when I watched the video I didn’t see a white man talking with a black man’s accent. It was an American talking with a Jamaican’s accent. The punch line is so not about race.
Wall Street Journal columnist Christopher John Farley isn’t calling racism, but he has expressed concern the ad uses the “island spirit” as its punch line. “The Jamaican aestetic… is founded on positive vibration, not mindless happiness,” he wrote of the ad, comparing its subject to Jar Jar Binks. He’s exactly right, but that irony is what is so great about the ad. It pokes fun at itself. It’s a joke.
The same goes for the ad’s teaser. In the 1 minute, 40 second spot Cliff performs “Get Happy” from what must be the Field of Happiness as a host of YouTube celebrities from their various places on Earth are beckoned by his Cliff’s song. The ad is cute and Cliff reminds me of Noah, calling the animals to his ark.
VW America marketing officer Tim Mahoney told “Starting Point” host Soledad O’Brien just how seriously his team took the ad, however.
“We actually talked to about 100 Jamaicans in the research, and we had a speech coach on site to make sure it was authentic as possible,” he said, later recalling his thrill at signing Cliff as a collaborator on the piece.
I want more stuff like this!