The Bright Side of A Racist Ad

Racism in advertising is no joke. It's real, it happens and it's ugly. There are times it's subtle (read The Black Image in The White Mind) and sometimes it's overt, like these ads. But it's definitely there.

However, in this case, I think people took it a touch too far. 

I'm not the authority on all things Black and/or Caribbean, (I'm still in training, have 16 more credits I need to graduate) so I know my word doesn't speak for the whole race and culture, but seriously guys? 

Put the race card back in your pockets and calm the hell down everybody.

Early last week, several of my Caribbean friends and I were actually discussing the ad - and more importantly, people's responses to it. (I found out about it from this article that quotes someone saying that the fake accent was like "blackface with voices.") *insert side eye*

Here's the ad if you haven't been alive for the past week: 

My Caribbean friends and I all agreed that the ad was definitely funny and definitely perpetuating a stereotype – a positive one. (And let's be honest, 99% of ads play off stereotypes in some way or another.)

Plus, VW is not just using the Jamaican’s Are Happy stereotype to steal/mock/devalue/oppress anyone. It's more of a celebration. And they go all in, using Jimmy Cliff (a Jamaican musical icon) as the spokesperson, and his version of “C’Mon, Get Happy” in the ads.

We approved.

And Red Stripe does too. The “official” beer of Jamaica posted  this video. A smart, funny and impressively quick response to the VW ad and controversy around it. 

Great way for a brand to capatilise off of something that’s in the news and relevant, and to make a big splash without spending $4 million on a TV spot. (Like how the Old Spice Man You Man Could Look Like spot premiered online after the Super Bowl.) 

And the Jamaica Tourism Board has since put together a "Get Happy in Jamaica" package for visitors on their not-so-aesthetically-pleasing website.

Everybody is winning here. VW is getting lots of press and video views and Red Stripe and Jamaica are getting in on the action, too.

The Lesson: 
Think bigger. Think differently. Think strategically. And think quickly. 

Start thinking today about how you can add things like that to your book and your work.

How can you think strategically to get your brands buzz? And (clients will love this) how can you get more bang for your buck?  It's not always going to be a TV spot or an app or "something on Facebook." 

Oh, and make sure you don't do racist shit. Just because this instance isn't exactly awful, doesn't mean that other things like this may not be. Thread lightly and be respectful of other cultures. 
Remember, just because it's funny doesn't make it right. 

(And just because your one Black/Asian/Hispanic/Indian friend or coworker thinks it's okay doesn't make it okay.)