German and Jamaican

On January 29, 2013, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

I have to admit that the Volkswagen commercial above brought a smile to my face. It’s been making the rounds on television and online because it’s going to be shown during the Super Bowl. Everybody will be watching, and advertisers increase their game for the Super Bowl. Some of us even think the commercials are more entertaining than the game.

This commercial is upbeat. The main character is happy and speaks with a Jamaican accent when everyone else is grumpy. What’s his secret? He owns a VW Bug. His colleagues think he has gone a bit bonkers, until he takes a few of them on a joy ride. Suddenly, they take on Jamaican accents.

Soledad O’Brien debuted the commercial on her show, Starting Point, earlier this week, and she asked the CEO of the company about the risks of having actors use a Jamaican accent. It turns out Volkswagen did its research, testing the commercial with focus groups. Check it out.

For me, it was odd to watch the actors who didn’t appear Jamaican saying very Jamaican things. Volkswagen is borrowing Jamaican culture to sell its German cars. It’s also playing on the stereotype that all Jamaicans are happy. It’s a risk the company was willing to take. Maybe it will payoff. We’ll see in the weeks following the Super Bowl.

What do you say?

 
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1003353065 Shelley Holden Hathaway

     I’m curious as to how people reacted to the Volkswagon Jamaican accent commercial aired on the Superbowl? I thought it was funny and light-hearted. C’mon now. People make fun of New England or Mass. accents (want some chowda?), southern accents(y’all come back now, ya heeya), British accents(hey mate, got a fag I can smoke), French accents(ooh la la ma leetle liver), Canadian accents(do yuh want a  LaBatts ay?)  So what! But this little debate is interesting. I don’t think it’s like black faces which is clearly insulting.

  • http://daniels365.wordpress.com/ Nikki {Daniels365}

    Honestly I can’t understand why people are upset about this commercial. As a person of Caribbean decent, I don’t find it racist. Just funny. Of course I like that the Asian guy started talking like a Jamaican in the end. LOL

  • Laura Majersky

    Mmmm. At the very end of the news clip you link to, one of the guys says: “It’s like black face with voices. I don’t like that.” Where I might have thought the commercial not that big of a deal, that comment made me think. The other issue is… where are the black people? There are _none_ in this commercial. There is the back of a black person’s head (guessing) at the very beginning, then nothing but other-than-black people. That feels really wrong and telling.

    Are there examples of commercials using culture/race/gender/sex orientation etc “correctly”? Correctly meaning in a way that is fun and makes people feel good instead of laughed at or denegrated.
    JCPenney commercials seem to do a good job sometimes.

    I really think, like with the Mel the Milkbite commercials, these spots are carefully calculated by the big corporations/ad agencies to hit just enough of a button to get talked about but not enough to get shut down for being too racist. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Aren’t we falling into that right now? I really don’t know what the solution is to that kind of tactic. :/

    • Honeysmoke

      Very good points, Laura. Viewers may find it funny, and it is certainly pulling on “positive” part of the culture, but it’s still a stereotype. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1003353065 Shelley Holden Hathaway

       I agree there should have been black people in this commercial. But I don’t really think the corporate heads sat there and said, “How racist can we be and get away with it?” What would be the point for CEO’s or ad agencies to insult potential buyers? I’m Italian but I don’t freak out when something is funny with Italian “stereotypes” guido, guidette, pizano, etc. Don’t we all need a little  more laughter? 

  • Justin Barrett

    Very interesting. Though it’s playing on stereotypes, albeit positives ones, it’s still enjoyable. The juxtaposition of a bunch of obvious non-Jamaicans speaking Jamaican slang in a Jamaican accent is very entertaining. It’s a risk, but I think it’s a good one. This will likely play well.

    Also, a little positive stereotype is nice every now again.And, it really does seem like Jamaicans are always happy. Is it the slang? The accent? The culture?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1003353065 Shelley Holden Hathaway

       Well put Justin. Now if they had all those people in the car smoking a big fat joint and singing “Don’t worry be happy” well, then I guess everyone would see it as an insult. The ad would then be insinuating that all Jamaicans are happy because they are high! We’ve all gotten to be so caught up in PC that we can’t laugh anymore?