WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Thursday January 31, 2013 – At least two Caribbean groups here have commended the German automobile company, Volkswagen, for its advertising campaign in recognizing what they describe as “the global impact of Jamaican culture.”
While there have been some criticisms of the advertisement, Dr. Claire Nelson, the Jamaican-born president of the Washington-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) and the Caribbean Heritage Organization (CHO), said her groups have found the commercial “amusing and indeed, a fascinating example of subtlety in subliminal messaging”.
“In one fell swoop, the ad directors have superimposed Jamaicans’ reputation for being hardworking – the three jobs archetype – as well as [for] our reputation for having a laid-back, positive, don’t-worry-about-a-thing disposition through the character of the Volkswagen.”
“And, yes, the accent in the commercial is not perfect, but it certainly is recognizable,” she added.
But Nelson said what her group found “problematic and bordering on offensive are the mostly non-Jamaican critics.” who contend that the commercial is racist, “with some going as far as saying that it’s like putting a Black face on a White or Asian person.
“We hasten to assure the viewing public, that being Jamaican, just like being American, is a nationality and not a race,” Nelson said.
She said any one of the actors featured in the commercial could be a native Jamaican, stating that while most Jamaicans are of African ancestry , the island-nation is also “home to a significant mixed-race and diverse racial population.”
Nelson noted that Jamaicans are East Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and European reflecting the Jamaican national motto, “Out of Many One People.”
“As chair of the National Caribbean-American Heritage Month commemorative celebrations in June, ICS congratulates Deutsch LA and Volkswagen [in] recognizing the Caribbean impact on American culture and making this a teachable moment to educate America and the rest of the world on the history and culture of Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean,” she said.
“We invite everyone to ‘Get In and Get Happy. No Problem, Man,’ [campaign],” Nelson added.
Meanwhile, Jamaicans have been embracing the ad that portrays a white office employee from the US Midwest – considered America’s heartland – feigning the Jamaican accent in displaying a “cheerful, upbeat outlook.”
In response, Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill said Jamaica can benefit significantly from the Super Bowl ad.
“I think this is a very creative commercial, which truly taps into the tremendous appeal that brand Jamaica and its hospitable people have globally,” he told the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.
Volkswagen of America said it has no plans to pull the ad.
“As of this morning, we received no consumer calls or complaints about our ad,” said spokesman Scott Vazin on Wednesday.