Volkswagen says there will be “no change” in its plan to air a controversial Super Bowl in which everyone in an office starts speaking in a Jamaican accent.
The ad came under fire when the German maker released a sneak preview earlier this week, critics calling it racist. But the spot, which is performed to the tune, “C’mon, Get Happy,” by Jamaican singer Jimmy Cliff, has also generated a wide range of support.
“My problem with it is there’s no link to Volkswagen. It’s a German car,” said Barbara Lippert, an editor-at-large for mediapost.com during an appearance on the Today Show in which she discussed Super Bowl advertising. Saying she was “shocked” by the VW spot, Lippert added that, “It’s just saying that black people are happy.”
The popular morning TV show got a very different response from viewers, however, more than nine out of ten responding to an informal survey insisting they liked the commercial and supporting VW’s plan to air it during Super Bowl XLVII, one of the year’s most anticipated sports events.
VW officials, for their part, say they have received plenty of support themselves, including a call from the Jamaican Ministry of Tourism that backed the spot.
It is, “is a perfect illustration of Jamaican culture’s global reach and our uncharacteristic penchant to be happy even in challenging situations,” Jamaican lawmaker Edmund Bartlett, meanwhile, told the Associated Press.
A spokesman for the automaker insists the30-second commercial was “well-researched,” and that will be “no change” in plans to air it on the Super Bowl Sunday broadcast.
“People tend to over-think things at times,” suggested VW’s Scott Vazin.
The Super Bowl broadcast is routinely one of the nation’s most widely watched television events and routinely generates massive interest in its ads, which are often ranked among the year’s best. In fact, notes TheDetroitBureau.com’s marketing columnist Marty Bernstein, “Many people watch just to see the commercials.
Volkswagen has made effective use of the game to get its message across, according to marketing specialists. Its Star Wars-themed ad, in which a young boy dressed as Darth Vader, was considered among the best and most popular spots two years ago, and VW ranked near the top, again, in 2012.
The maker’s latest spot is far from the first Super Bowl commercial to generate controversy. Chrysler’s unusual 2-minute spot, dubbed “Halftime in America,” was one of the most high-ranked ads in last year’s Super Bowl. But it caught fire from some Republican pundits, including campaign strategist Karl Rove, who insisted it’s hopeful message about a nation struggling to recover from economic setback was a payback by Chrysler for the Obama Administration’s federal bailout.
Ironically, actor Clint Eastwood – who narrated and appeared in the Chrysler ad – generated even more controversy during his appearance at the Republican National Convention later in the year with a mock conversation with Pres. Barack Obama using a chair as a stand-in.
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