Volkswagen's Super Bowl ad has been causing quite a stir since it was released. The commercial, which features the Beetle Turbo and a white, Minnesota man speaking with a superimposed Jamaican accent, has caused many to label the ad as "racist." But two Caribbean cultural groups have come forward to defend VW.
The U.S.-based Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Caribbean Heritage Organization issued a statement supporting the ad. "We find the commercial amusing and indeed a fascinating example of subtlety in subliminal messaging," the statement said. "In one fell swoop, the ad directors have superimposed Jamaicans' reputation for being hardworking . . . as well as our reputation for having a laid back, positive, don't-worry-about-a-thing disposition on the character of the Volkswagen. And yes, the accent in the commercial is not perfect, but it certainly is recognizable."
The controversy boiled over when New York Times columnist Charles Blow, for example, blasted the ad on a CNN segment, saying, "I don't like it at all. It's like blackface with voices."
John Farley of the Wall Street Journal referred to the ad as reminiscent of Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars. Ad critic Barbara Lippert blasted the ad on The Today Show.
Volkswagen responded to the allegations of racism in a statement released Tuesday.
"His accent is intended to convey a relaxed, cheerful demeanor while encouraging a positive attitude as the antidote to a tough Monday. Everyone can relate to being in an office and being ground down by the pressures of work and 'Get Happy' brings an optimistic, bright spirit into an otherwise mundane day."
Volkswagen has said it intends to run the ad during the big game.
AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley who previously worked on two automotive car accounts at big ad agencies said that racism can be hard to define in ads because of varying sensitivities, but that the VW ad did not seem to cross any lines. "When I first saw this ad, I had no sense of it being racist. As someone who has been to both Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands on vacation, I can attest that there is a spirit and life attitude that is reflected in the patois of the islands. Coming from the U.S., you tend to embrace it, and even pick up the patois whether you are white, black, brown, yellow or red. It's fun. And when you come home, you may even slip into that feeling, wishing you were back in the islands."
What do you think? Is the ad racist? Watch the commercial above and let us know what you think.