Recently, Volkswagen published a new commercial for the eighth-generation Golf which has been deemed 'racist'. It ran on Instagram briefly before it was pulled down by the automaker after comments had been made about it. So what was in the ad that caused it to receive backlash?
The spot ran for less than 20 seconds and it shows a black man looking around the Golf. A white hand is then shown pushing the man around and away from the car. He is then flicked into a cafe called 'Petit Colon', which translates to 'Little Colonist'. A statement from Volkswagen said that they were “surprised and shocked” that their short ad could be “so misunderstood”.
Nonetheless, the German automaker deleted the post on Instagram and had made a formal apology. Volkswagen's head of sales and marketing, Jürgen Stackmann, published a tweet in German apologizing for what had happened. Translated to English, he had this to say.
“I sincerely apologize as an individual in my capacity as a board member at Volkswagen Sales & Marketing. Hatred, racism, and discrimination have no place at Volkswagen! In this case, I will personally ensure full transparency and consequences,” said Stackmann.
Jochen Sengpiehl, chief marketing officer, adds “The critical point is that we failed to spot the racist elements of this video. I want to apologize for this error of judgment, also on behalf of the team. A key finding of the investigation is that we need an out-of-context review. Each individual clip must be unequivocal and non-critical, even without the general context. I will personally make sure that the actions resolved will be implemented in day-to-day business operations.”
With that, Volkswagen has launched an internal investigation surrounding the ad, and have taken steps to prevent something like this from happening again. “Our controls are clearly insufficient when it comes to ethical judgment. We recognize that we have to question with much greater sensitivity whether content could potentially be discriminatory, offensive, or disturbing for people,” said Stackmann. From now on, they will establish a permanent approval checkpoint at the company and agency side, create a board of diversity experts, and boost ethics and culture training, just to name a few.
But was the ad really racist? Head on to Youtube and see it for yourself. Racist, insensitive, or just misunderstood? You decide.