As football teams and advertisers are getting ready for this year's Super Bowl game, Volkswagen is having to deal with critics who say their new commercial is racist. Tim Mahoney, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of VW, recently talked with WSJ senior editorial director Chris Farley about the commercial that some view as offensive.
VW thought outside the box this year with their Bug commercial that features a white man from Minnesota speaking with a Jamaican accent. The man tries to bring life to an otherwise dead workplace, encouraging his co-workers to hug and smile more while talking with a heavy accent. Success is found at the end of the ad when the man's boss, who is also white and not from Jamaica, speaks with a Jamaican accent from the passenger side of the 2013 Bug. The Partridge family's song 'Come On Get Happy' plays in the backdrop as the scene fades out.
While the idea of happiness is celebrated among fans and foes, some critics have questioned the manner in which VW conveys exuberance with their decision to have white men who are clearly from the United States talk with Jamaican accents. Farley even asked Mahoney if he had consulted with Jamaican natives before putting out such an edgy commercial.
Mahoney's response to all of the criticism was direct and clear as he explained, "We did our homework to make sure we weren't offensive so we did some research to make sure we didn't go in a direction we didn't want to go. The ad tested incredibly well. 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. For me, it's a great mash up."
VW's ad will air during one of the commercial segments of this year's Super Bowl. Look at the video and tell us if you think it's racist!