A Volkswagen TV commercial slated to run during the Super Bowl that features an office worker from Minnesota is being called culturally insensitive.
In the spot released this week (see it below), the cubicle drone is so cheered by his shiny red VW that he speaks in a jaunty Jamaican accent, spreading joy to his down-trodden colleagues. "No worries, Mon! Every-ting will be all right," he announces to the Monday-dreading workers in his elevator.
The Jamaican government has embraced the commercial, the Associated Press reported. But the ad doesn't sit right with critics because it shows a white man with an accent associated with black Jamaicans. New York Times columnist Charles Blow on CNN said the ad was "like blackface with voices."
"It's pretty horrific," Ricki Fairley-Brown, president of the multicultural marketing agency Dove Marketing, told USA Today. "Why do they have a white guy from Minnesota faking a Jamaican accent?"
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, chief hispanic marketing strategist at Walton Isaacson, an African-American, Gay/Lesbian and Hispanic agency, tells the newspaper, "What happens in this ad is that the culture becomes a punch line, and that is offensive."
Volkswagen said the accent is intended to convey a "relaxed cheerful demeanor," the Associated Press reports. "There is no thought to pulling it," Tim Mahoney, chief product and marketing office at Volkswagen of America, told USA Today. He told CNN that Jamaicans were among the test audience for the spot.
"Even though it's not a good ad, they managed to get as much attention this year as they did last year before the game," Barbara Lippert, columnist at mediapost.com, told the AP. "It's amazing to use America as their test kitchen, which they did."
Check it out for yourself: