The ‘Get In, Get Happy’ ad shows an office worker trying to cheer up his colleagues with a laid back Caribbean lilt. His attitude becomes infectious to those around him and the the TV spot ends with him driving a red VW Beetle with his now happy co-workers.
In one scene the character says: “Julia turn d frown, d otha way aroun” and in another claims: “No worries everyting will be al rite.”
The advert continues the theme first raised in the brand’s Super Bowl teaser, which launched last week, and stars reggae legend Jimmy Cliff singing ‘The Partridge Family’ TV show theme song ‘Come on Get Happy’.
Volkswagen says it intended the campaign to highlight the fun to be had in driving its cars, but some US critics have said the depiction of the Jamaican accent is “stereotypical” and “culturally offensive.”
Charles Blow, a New York Times columnist, told CNN the advert was “Blackface with voices.”
VW has defended the TV spot, saying: “The protagonist in the commercial is intentionally meant to portray an upbeat perspective and intelligence as he influences his co-workers to ‘Get Happy’.”
YouTube viewers have reacted more favourably to the spot, which was posted online earlier this week. Many comment they did not find the character culturally offensive.
Separately, Sodastream has been forced to change its Super Bowl advert because it takes a swipe at the rivals Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The advert was pulled from UK screens last year following claims from ClearCast that it ‘denigrated’ the soft drinks market.
A re-edited version will now show in its place during the game this weekend.