Thursday, 21 November 2013

Volkswagen Advertisement- Jamaican Style

Yes, we all had an option about the Volkswagen Super Bowl advertisement featuring a white male American office worker with a Jamaican accent.  In viewing the advertisement one was immediately reminded of the Jamaican proverb which says “wi lickle but wi tallawah”. For a major automobile manufacturer such as the German carmaker Volkswagen to use our dialect in a major advertisement it speaks volume of Jamaica’s greatness and influence despite her relatively small size on the map.  Like any controversial topic there are arguments for both sides of the debate. Those who object to the advertisement argue that the advertisement is racist and offensive to Jamaica and Jamaicans. However, we tend to forget that although the majority of Jamaicans are black and are from an African heritage Jamaica is a pluralistic society with many ethnic groups represented. There are Chinese Jamaicans; Jamaicans of Indian descent and of course white Jamaicans.  Additionally, there are also Jews in Jamaica and Muslims all in keeping with Jamaica’s motto “Out Of Many One People”.
What if Volkswagen had used a white Jamaican to play the main character in the advertisement would we be having this discussion about the ad being racist, clearly we would not.
Racism is the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and this and this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others.  We clearly need to answer the question when did Jamaica become a race?
I found it rather interesting and disturbing to have watched the Today Show on NBC last week during which a white female American advertising expert was asked by Matt Lauer to comment on the Volkswagen advertisement. This so called expert said the advertisement was offensive to Jamaicans. How can someone who is not Jamaican speak so about what offends us as a people?  Clearly she spoke in ignorance like all those who are of the view the advertisement is racist.  Those who speak in without the required knowledge clearly need to do their research and get their facts correct, Jamaica is more diverse and complex than many of us would like to believe.
The Super Bowl has become a main staple for the American culture and landscape and within the last few years the Super Bowl has had a viewership of over one hundred million persons in the United States of America alone.  In fact according to the well respected and leader in market research The Nielson Company reported that the 2011 Super Bowl had over 111 million persons making it the most watched programme ever. I urge the Jamaica Tourist Board to capitalize on this moment and the exposure that no doubt brand Jamaica will get from this Volkswagen advertisement. Hundreds of millions of individuals watched Super Bowl 2013 and no doubt this advertisement showcased Jamaica in a humorous and positive way that no local advertising campaign could have conceptualized.