Columns

About that VW ad

Tamara Scott-Williams

Sunday, February 03, 2013    

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TODAY is Super Bowl Sunday when the XLVII championship game of the United States National Football League is played; today's game in New Orleans features the Baltimore Ravens vs the San Franciso 49ers. (Go San Francisco!!!)

The television ad space, which is sacred ground for high-profile advertisements, reaches over 100 million viewers and typically costs millions of dollars. This year, one 30-second commercial will cost the advertiser US$4 million (that's almost J$400,000,000) added to which are the production costs for the actual ad which can run into the tens of millions.

This type of investment is carefully considered and many of the advertisers employ year-round agencies giving them the sole task of creating their Super Bowl ad. For the big boys — the beer, chip and insurance companies — the ads can use up to 10 per cent of their full year media budgets, for the smaller companies (up to 30 per cent of Super Bowl advertisers are first-timers) seeking to build brand awareness and reach a huge national audience. A Super Bowl ad can make or break a company's fortune.

Over the years, these commercials have become highly anticipated because of their innovative or funny creativity and we are pleased to know that Jamaica features prominently in one wherein a group of non-Jamaican office workers (from Minnesota of all places) talk in a Jamaican accent to promote the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle.

The idea is that the happy-go-lucky spirit of Jamaica can win over even the most sceptical among us and in the ad it does. Turn that smile upside down and get happy, the Minnesotan/Jamaican says, and they do.

My friend Tiffany suggested that it was 'Butch' Stewart and his mega marketing machine that suggested the idea to the VW marketing group in a bid to raise the profile of the automobiles which he now markets and sells in Jamaica. I wouldn't put it past him.

Adam Stewart, in an interview on CVM's The Naked Truth (nice show, ladies!) said Sandals alone spends US$70 million annually on advertising and it works well for their local and regional products.

Whatever the case, we think it's a good thing for Jamaica. Clearly our brand is known and mostly perceived in a most positive, life-changing light. So we are surprised by the 'likkle' bit of controversy that it has ignited on the international news, calling the ad a modern version of the 19th century 'black face' minstrel shows — a style of entertainment based on racist black stereotypes.

How wretched a life must one have in order to find the time and energy to call this commercial 'racist', I wonder. To them I say, get over yourself. Get happy.

My friend and social media maven Ingrid has suggested: "Jamaicans may very well be blind to racism, not in an idiotic way, but that we couldn't give a (hoot), as we nuh frighten fi nobody and generally we think we are the (best)." And she's right. We think we are the best and that everything we do, good or bad, is to the best of our ability.

Everybody loves Jamaica and Jamaicans — and we've long been featured in commercials and major motion pictures by major players: Brad Pitt and Lois Kelly Miller in Meet Joe Black, Tom Cruise and Red Stripe Beer in Cocktails, Sidney Poitier and a Bob Marley flag in Jackal, a revised version of Day of the Jackal.

The list is long and our debut into important, expensive prime time commercials is a natural progression.

But we've got to be very careful, because "what sweet we soon sour we", and if we don't watch it, then the veil will be lifted and our crass, murderous underbelly will be that which is exposed as what separates us from everything and everyone else. The world now has us up on the pedestal as being the culture which uplifts and delights, but as I was painfully and publicly reminded by someone a few days ago, the higher we climb, the more we show we tail.

scowicomm@gmail.com

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