That Funny VW Ad

By now nearly everyone on the planet has seen that VW ad:

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this ad. NY Times's Charles Blow weighed in on the Jamaican accent with charges of racism and “Blackface with voices.” This was countered on CNN by Roland Martin, Erin Burnett and Reihan Salam who disagreed and cited the island’s racial demographics.

I thought it was hilarious that Erin Burnett was left speechless for a few minutes, and blurted out that Roland Martin and Reihan Salam were “men of color.”

Finally, members of the Jamaican government came to VW’s rescue by saying that the ad wasn’tracist. For my Jamaican challenged readers of the American persuasion, that’s like Republicans and Democrats agreeing on motherhood and apple pie.

All I can say that I was not offended by the VW ad. When I first saw the ad, I laughed my ass off. When I watched it again, I realized it was a very smart ad. Very smart. Through the images and dialogue, it equated the pinnacle of happiness with being Jamaican.

Happiness= Jamaican

And who can argue with that?

Then, using the only metaphor that Americans can equate with being happy (other than being a Jamaican or trying to talk like one) the ad makers substituted driving a VW. It's the next best thing.

Happiness is being Jamaican
Jamaicans (or fake ones) drive VWs
Happiness is driving a VW

BTW, even the great Bob Marley who sang, “I’m a happy inside all, all of the time,” in "Satisfy my Soul,” drove a VW.

It’s the happiness bug.


Great post! Well said. Love that photo with Bob Marley driving a Volkswagen. I'm Jamaican too and I think the ads are great fun. Foreigners who have criticized them are totally missing the mark. They need to give it a rest and speak out about real issues re: equity in hiring and in the workplace.

I have weighed in on this issue in my own blog post:

Do Volkswagen @VW 'Be Happy' Super Bowl Ads Stereotype Jamaicans? [VIDEOS] #teamjamaica #jamaicansforvw

Feel free to add your comments.
Geoffrey Philp said…
Dear Anne,

I think the foreigners have missed the mark. We're very sophisticated in these areas of nuance.

Thanks for the comment.

One Love,
FSJL said…
Roland Martin's mispronunciation of Abe Issa's name provoked the response from Paul Issa "I am NOT related to that congressman from California!" (I asked him about it).
Geoffrey Philp said…
@FSJL, yeah, when I hear it, I went what?
Give thanks for the follow-up.

One love,

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