Super Bowl ad stirs controversy

Associated Press photo provided by VOLKSWAGEN -- The Super Bowl teaser advertisement for Volkswagen is called 'Get In. Get Happy.' Volkswagen released a teaser for its 2012 Super Bowl spot several days before last year's game. That spot, which featured dogs barking 'The Imperial March' from 'Star Wars,' received 16 million views on YouTube. Show caption
Associated Press photo provided by VOLKSWAGEN -- The Super Bowl teaser advertisement for Volkswagen is called 'Get In. Get Happy.' Volkswagen released a teaser for its 2012 Super Bowl spot several days before last year's game. That spot, which featured dogs barking 'The Imperial March' from 'Star Wars,' received 16 million views on YouTube.

A Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial that hit the Web on Monday and depicts a white office worker showing his happiness with a Jamaican accent is stirring up online controversy.

The ad shows a worker from Minnesota trying to cheer up co-workers in an accent often associated with black Jamaicans, because he has been made so happy by his Volkswagen.

Pundits on NBC’s “Today Show,” a Wall Street Journal blog and elsewhere have questioned whether the ad is offensive.

But despite the media outcry, most comments surrounding the ad appeared to be positive.

On Youtube.com, many left comments on the spot saying they did not find the ad culturally insensitive.

But some said they found the characterization of Jamaicans as “happy-go-lucky” to be stereotypical.

Robert Kolt, advertising instructor at Michigan State University, said he found the ad cute rather than offensive.

“I’ve seen ads that may be insensitive in the past and I don’t think that’s true with this one,” he said. “It’s a joke, and I think most people will think it’s funny.”

A bigger problem, he said, is that it doesn’t really make people remember Volkswagen as a brand.

“I’m not sure it brands the product well enough during the spot,” he said.

Volkswagen, for its part, stood by the ad and says it has no plans to pull it.

“The protagonist in the commercial is intentionally meant to portray an upbeat perspective and intelligence as he influences his coworkers to ‘Get Happy,’ ” said Tim Mahoney, chief marketing officer for Volkswagen of America, in an email response.

“His accent is intended to convey a relaxed, cheerful demeanor while encouraging a positive attitude as the antidote to a tough Monday.”