Is Volkswagen's Super Bowl ad racist?

The big game's first advertising controversy has arrived, and it involves former ad darling VW.

By Aimee Picchi Jan 30, 2013 1:45PM

This year's Super Bowl has revealed its first advertising controversy: a commercial from Volkswagen (VLKAY) that's coming under fire as racist.


The commercial features a white Minnesotan who suddenly starts speaking in a Jamaican accent, urging his dour co-workers to "Turn the frown the other way around." (To see the ad, click here.) The punch line? His happiness stems from his ride: a VW Beetle.

Some are finding the ad offensive, with New York Times columnist Charles Blow telling CNN, "It's like blackface with voices." Another CNN commentator said the spot reminded him of Jar Jar Binks, the maligned "Star Wars" character who was criticized as reflecting some racial stereotypes. 


The stakes are high, with this year's commercial time selling for a record $3.8 million. That means some marketers are willing to take risks in order to grab viewers' attention. After all, the game's advertisers represent a who's who of America's top brands, including M&Ms, Coca-Cola (KO) and Ford (F).Image: Watching television ( Corbis)


That the controversy involves VW underscores how even top marketers can slip up when it comes to Super Bowl advertising. The automaker created one of 2011's most beloved Super Bowl ads,"The Force," in which a boy dressed up as Darth Vader tries to use his "force" to move sandwiches, toys and laundry. (To see that ad, click here.)


VW is standing by its Jamaican accent, with chief marketing officer Tim Mahoney noting, "there is no thought to pulling it," according to USA Today


The automaker talked with 100 Jamaicans and used a speech coach to make sure the white actor in this year's spot accurately reflected the accent, Mahoney told CNN.


Super Bowl ads that go awry often have a common theme: they backfire when the marketer tries to shock or takes on polarizing issues. And, as VW has found, humor can miss the mark with some viewers.


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522Comments
Jan 30, 2013 3:10PM
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It's a funny commercial!!!  People need to get a life and stop looking for something that just doesn't exist.  It's a GERMANY made car with a very, very good JAMAICAN ACCENT.  I have a number of Jamaican friends and they thought it was hilarious.  The Politically Correct Crowd needs to stop looking to cause problems where there are no problems.  This is the way this PC Crowd earns their paycheck. 

Jan 30, 2013 3:10PM
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I'm so sick of these turds who think everything is racist.... can't we just hang all these stupid motherfvckers & be done already? These people are the true racists as they expect each group to act a certain way & when they don't it's "racist" 
Jan 30, 2013 3:10PM
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how is that rasist, that guy just wants people to have a better day
Jan 30, 2013 3:10PM
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Don't EVEN change it,it's GREAAAAAAT
Jan 30, 2013 3:10PM
Jan 30, 2013 3:09PM
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If you think this ad is racist- YOU ARE AN IDIOT! Did you forget? You voted in the racist president Obama so now your precious "race card" doesn't work! The society is dominated by liberals you dipsh**!  Haha, backfired on your ****!
Jan 30, 2013 3:08PM
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Get off this racist crap!  Obama won.  His relatives all have high paying federal jobs. Its four years until the next inaugaration. Lay off the racist crap.. 

Jan 30, 2013 3:08PM
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I think it's hilarious. Not as good as their Little Darth ad, but still fairly entertaining.  Only MSN and the petty little groups to which they cow-tow would think this was racist.
Jan 30, 2013 3:06PM
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I don't find it racist. I wish that people nowdays would stop complaining about everything. I've never seen so many pissed off, unhappy people in my life. Sure, the economy sucks (I'm living week to week too) but I still try to stay happy. I won't say I achieve that goal everyday, but at least I try. Some of these people need to do the same.

Jan 30, 2013 3:06PM
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Some people will find an excuse to call anything racist. Don't they have anything better to do with their time?
Jan 30, 2013 3:05PM
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Seriously !!!? Racist???  People need to something else to complain about. There is nothing Racist about that ad
Jan 30, 2013 3:05PM
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The ad is very funny.  Especially when they play the Partridge family theme song.
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Nope.  not racist.    I thought it kinda funny
Jan 30, 2013 3:04PM
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Obviously the person asking the question doesnt' realize there ARE white Jamaican's & even a large Chinese & Indian population in Jamaica as well.

 

Just someone else trying to stir up the race coffee................again.

Jan 30, 2013 3:04PM
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I'm really dreading this commercial... Get it, Dredding??? Oh F off, all of you.
Jan 30, 2013 3:03PM
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America used to have one saving grace, it could laugh at itself.

 

No one's laughing any more and the guns are out.

 

Fools.

Jan 30, 2013 3:03PM
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WOW.. i thought that was pretty funny..
Jan 30, 2013 3:03PM
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Racist NO!  Fun YES!!  Smile Mun!!!!!
Jan 30, 2013 3:01PM
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You want to talk racist how about all the people that voted for Obama.  If he had been white very few people would have voted for him.  I worked for the goverment for 35 years and we always had to watch and be careful about what was said because it might be racist, but this rule does not apply to other races talking about us. 
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