German car giant Volkswagen has been forced to pull a social media campaign that showed a giant white hand pushing around a black person after it was called out as racist.
The 10-second clip appeared on VW’s Instagram page on Tuesday to advertise its latest Golf vehicle. It has since been removed but was still circulating on Twitter on Wednesday.
The spot shows an oversized white woman’s hand picking up a black man and moving him around before flicking him into a building and away from the yellow Golf car parked nearby.
The problem was that when tagline “Der neue Golf” (or The new Golf) faded in such a way it appeared to spell out the N-word in German.
Other social media users also took offence at the sign above the building the man disappears into, which reads “Petit Colon”, was interpreted as a reference to colonialism.
Check out the spot for yourself below:
Volkswagen schaltet auf Insta rassistische Werbung und ich frage mich wie man innerhalb von 10 Sekunden einfach ALLES falsch machen kann.
Das die ersten eingeblendeten Buchstaben das N-Wort ergeben, setzt dem ganzen noch die Krone auf. pic.twitter.com/QR8uIfSH43
— Bild ist doof! (@Friesiii) May 19, 2020
The ad was quickly called out on social media. “No one here got the wrong impression,” said one Instagram commenter. “This is bad and racist communication.”
“The people who made this knew exactly what they were doing,” another tweeted.
For its part, Volkswagen immediately pulled the ad and offered a half-hearted apology insisting that the “origin of the people depicted is irrelevant” and that the company opposed “all forms of racism, xenophobia and discrimination”.
The media statement added: “As you can imagine, we are surprised and shocked that our Instagram story could be so misunderstood.”