Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Several students at the historic William Knibb High Memorial School in Trelawny, have lauded a controversial Volkswagen Super Bowl advertisement, which they say is sending a strong message that it's time Jamaicans embrace their culture.
William Knibb is the alma mater of the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt.
"Too often we are ashamed of embracing what it is that makes us unique, such as our rich culture," said sixth form student Nastascia Gossel.
Gossel was among a very vocal group that participated in a Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum at the school Wednesday afternoon.
Underscoring the genius of the makers of the advertisement, which has tapped into the tremendous mass appeal that brand Jamaica and its hospitable people have globally, Gossel's classmate, Tasanica Ellis, pointed out that this has again proven that Jamaicans have sat back and allowed others to embrace their culture.
"We are ashamed to speak our own Patois, particularly when we speak publicly on tele-vision or radio," she stated, noting that the tourists who come to Jamaica want to experience the authenticity of the culture. "Instead, what we do is try to be like them, but that is not what they want. They want the real feel of Jamaica. The things we are offering is what they are accustomed to."
Not doing enough
Like Ellis, another student, Brent Blair, who is convinced Jamaica is not doing enough to capitalise on its assets, said the country does not have an advertisement that comes close to the creativity of what VW has presented.
"The ad is speaking about our people. The way VW has used us to big up their product, is how we need to showcase our greatest asset, our people," he argued.
The commercial, which has generated much discussion across various social-media platforms and in the electronic media locally and overseas, uses reggae icon Jimmy Cliff's new rendition of the Partridge Family theme song Get Happy, and a man named Dave whose new-found sunny disposition manifests itself in a curious way, all thanks to his new 2013 Volkswagen Beetle.
The ad's popularity and controversy spurred NBC Today's Show to cast a poll, asking whether it was offensive. Ninety-three per cent of the respondents polled said a resounding 'No', with a mere seven per cent saying 'Yes'.
The ad has gone viral since being broadcast a week ago, with approximately 2.7 million viewings up to press time.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill described the commercial as a tribute to the popularity of reggae music worldwide, while saluting Cliff for being a true Jamaican ambassador through his outstanding music.
"I urge persons all across the globe to do exactly what the commercial portrays, which is to tap into your inner Jamaican and 'get happy'," he said.
His views have been seconded by Edmund Bartlett opposition tourism spokesman.
The commercial is slated to be aired during the highly anticipated Super Bowl on Sunday, which will mark the climax of the National Football League season in the United States.
Some 110 million consumers are expected to watch the Super Bowl and Jamaica has a front row seat through the lens of the already famous advertisement.