The brouhaha over Volkswagen's 2013 Super Bowl TV commercial escalates, with commentators divided as to whether or not the commercial is racist.
I am a senior communications executive working for the last 16 years in multicultural advertising, and neither I nor my agency colleagues find this commercial inappropriate.
A truly thoughtful discussion should acknowledge a few key points:
First, it is quite obvious that the approach is not to mimic Jamaicans, as much as to echo the famous Bob Marley song, "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" -- a song that is burned into everyone's psyche with Marley's heavy Jamaican accent. Now, just think about how such a famous tune gets into your head: you listen to it, you start humming it, and all of a sudden, you start singing -- accent (or approximation thereof) and all.
The only difference is that the main character in the Volkswagen spot carries the Marley accent -- and his 'everything's gonna be alright' attitude -- throughout his morning. I doubt there would have been such a controversy if the spot started by showing the protagonist actually listening to the original Marley song in his car as he parked at work, and then quietly singing it to himself -- getting more and more into the 'vibe' of the song -- all the way into the elevator.