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A Volkswagen spot slated to air during Sunday’s Super Bowl is getting a thumbs down from some critics who accuse it of exploiting racial stereotypes.
The 60-second “Get in. Get Happy” ad features a white office-worker (and Volkswagen driver) who speaks in a Jamaican accent and tries to cheer up his co-workers.
“Don’t fret me brother. The sticky bun come soon,” he says to one man having trouble at the vending machine.
“You know what this room needs? A smile. Who want to come with I?” he asks a group of coworkers at the end of a depressing business meeting.
He then takes them on a drive in his 2013 Volkswagen Beetle.
On NBC’s Today, which aired the ad in full Tuesday, Mediapost.com’s Barbara Lippert questioned the wisdom of releasing the ad.
“Didn’t anyone look at this? This is so racist,” she said. “It’s just saying that black people are happy.” Lippert predicted Volkswagen would not air the ad during the Super Bowl, as the company is said to have a backup spot waiting in the wings.
Today host Matt Lauer defended the ad, saying it reminded him of being on a peaceful island vacation.
Appearing on CNN‘s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, Volkswagen marketing officer Tim Mahoney said the company conducted research, including consultations with Jamaicans, to ensure the ad was racially sensitive.
But that didn’t sit right with New York Times columnist Charles Blow, who said on CNN the spot was “like blackface with voices.”
Volkswagen’s spot would cost $7.6 million to show during the Super Bowl. In 2011, the company took the big game by storm with its Darth Vader kid ad, which was the most-watched ad of any kind on YouTube that year. Last year, it unleashed a follow-up, in which an overweight dog exercises so much that he can catch up to a red-colored VW Beetle.
Watch this year’s spot below.
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