Superbowl Ads and Racism, Real and Imagined

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingThis morning, I was interviewed on K-Twin FM, which is ever so conveniently located right downstairs from the Olson office. It was a hill of fun and its always interesting to watch people make news and programming–all the editing on the fly, the hand signals to speed up, slow down or cut to the next story…

The topic was Super Bowl ads, most of which anyone with a high-speed internet connection has already seen. Specifically, show host Cane Peterson was interested in the controversy swirling around two ads, one for Coca Cola and the other for VW, both of which are getting called out for racism on social media.

Like many social media firestorms, this one will burn hot and furious…and pass quickly. Because the Arabian character in “Chase” is not a racist portrayal, it’s a movie reference. Much like the ensuing film references to cowboys, Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the opening character pulling a camel is clearly based on Omar Sharif’s role in Lawrence of Arabia.Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

Still, the radio hosts wondered, not without reason, whether these controversies were intentionally ginned up by the advertisers to gain more attention. While Mercedes clearly did that with their juvenile Kate Upton ad, no advertiser wants to trump up a controversy around racism.

That’s simply not funny.

That said, a Jimmy Cliff voiceover placed seamlessly atop a blond and bland Minnesota business guy?  I laughed. So the question is, does that makes me an insensitive jerk or the main reason for Judd Apatow’s meteoric career?


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


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