SUPER BOWL ADS: Is Volkswagen ad of Minn. worker racist? - KMSP-TV

  • Do you think Volkswagen's Super Bowl ad featuring a man from Minnesota speaking with a Jamaican accent to coworkers is offensive?

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  • Volkswagen Super Bowl ad causes stir

SUPER BOWL ADS: Is Volkswagen ad of Minn. worker racist?

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Super Bowl ads are always a topic of conversation, but Volkswagen's new ad is causing a already causing a stir after showing a white office worker from Minnesota speaking with a Jamaican accent.

The advertisement begins with a group of groggy coworkers stepping into a packed elevator. They begin to gripe about Monday when Dave shares the positive outlook he evidently achieved through appreciating his new, 2013 Volkswagen Beetle.

Dave urges several coworkers to buck up with phrases like, "No worries, man -- everything will be alright," and "turn that frown upside down," through a thick Jamaican accent during the minute-long ad. About halfway through, he is asked to confirm that he is from Minnesota. He does, in that same accent, to the bewilderment of his colleagues.

After a "dismal" meeting, Dave suggests the room really needs a smile. He, his boss and a coworker climb into the car and go for what is presumably a joy ride. When they arrive back at the office, they are chastised for being 3 minutes late, but now all of the car's occupants have adopted the accent too.

The ad, Get In: Get Happy, has drawn some harsh criticism already, with some describing the ad as offensive. New York Times columnist Charles Blow told CNN's Soledad O'Brien he saw the ad as "blackface with voices."

"What happens in this ad is that the culture becomes a punch line, and that is offensive," Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, marketing strategist with Walton Isaacson -- an African-American, Hispanic and LGBT agency, told USA Today.

Yet, those accusing the ads of being racist have also been accused of being too uptight -- even by Jamaicans. The country's minister of tourism and entertainment, Wykeham McNeill, described the ad as a "complement" and is currently speaking with Volkswagen about co-branding.

In a second super bowl ad pre-released on YouTube, Volkswagen brought reggae legend Jimmy Cliff together with several characters in need of cheering -- from a cat-hugging Internet persona to a screaming politician and hurricane-beaten meteorologist -- to tell them, "we'll make you happy."

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