At the 1:02 spot in the “Get Happy” commercial, a midwestern White man named Dave tells upset co-workers “don’t worry, everything will be all right,” in a Jamaican accent drawing on the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” song by Bobby McFerrin and Bob Marley‘s classic “Three Little Birds.” Throughout the ad, Dave continues cheering up his colleagues with his faux-West Indian accent.
The spot ends with Dave (pictured in driver’s seat), taking his stressed-out co-workers for a rejuvenating ride in a new Volkswagen. They return to work three minutes late, according to a fellow worker, but Dave’s co-workers don’t seem to mind. One worker who appears to be of Asian descent adds, “Don’t be no cloud on a sunny day!” in his own Jamaican accent, and their White supervisor then tells the man to “chill, Winston.”
Watch the “Get Happy” Ad here:
Unfortunately, some aren’t seeing a reason to chill after watching the ad. “It’s pretty horrific,” Ricki Fairley-Brown, president of Dove Marketing, a multicultural agency, told USA Today. “Why do they have a White guy from Minnesota faking a Jamaican accent?”
“It made me uncomfortable to see all of those White people in an office setting doing this,” pop culture ad critic Barbara Lippert added.
According to the numbers, though, Lippert and Brown don’t have many people on their side. A USA Today online poll showed 93 percent of viewers “greatly liked” the spot. Even Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s minister of tourism and entertainment, saw no reason to find the ad offensive. “We view it as a compliment,” McNeill said. “People should get in to their inner Jamaica and get happy.”
Erik Nicolaisen, the man who starred in the spot as Dave, expressed hopes the ad won’t be pulled, adding that his brother-in-law is Jamaican and gave the ad a thumbs-up. “He loves it,” Nicolaisen said.