Volkswagen is apologizing for an ad it posted to its social media channels this month. In a statement, the company’s head of sales and marketing admitted that the commercial was racist and pledged to keep someone accountable.
The ad, which has now been taken down, featured a black actor being controlled like a puppet by a white hand, which pushed it away from a Mk8 Golf and eventually flicked it into a restaurant called “Petit Colon,” which translates to Little Colonist.
The ad then features the words “Der Neue Golf” on the screen, which fade out leaving only the letters required to spell out the German equivalent of the N-word on the screen before fading out entirely.
The ad appears to have been a miscalculation on VW’s part. Though considering all of the imagery together, it’s one that VW should have been able to predict. Volkswagen’s recent history with questionable language–its CEO recently alluded to the slogan atop Auschwitz and it ran an ad in Europe that stereotyped women–means that it losing, if it hasn’t already lost, the benefit of the doubt.
Set in Buenos Aires the ad was shot near the Teatro Colon, named after Christopher Columbus. The series of ads posted to Facebook and Instagram were supposed to depict a love story and the moving of the character was supposed to reflect an Instagram trend of using the parallax effect to make a person look tiny.
VW’s initial response to the outcry reflected its belief that the ad was far from racist. The company initially said that it was “surprised and shocked that our Instagram story could be so misunderstood.”
Since then, though, the company wrote that it fully understands the disgust and anger that have stemmed from the ad.
“It is quite clear that this video is wrong and distasteful,” the company wrote in a statement. “We firmly distance ourselves from the video and apologise sincerely. [sic]”
Volkswagen has since promised to investigate how the ad got published in the first place.
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