Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

The New York Times says that VW is upset about the fake ad showing a suicide bomber and a Polo. I'm sure everyone has seen a reference to this in their local papers. (In a Japanese newspaper, they had a hand-drawn story-board of the ad.)

For your reference, Wizbang has links to the video.

And just for old time's sake, here are the pages for the Ford SportKa and the Nokia fake ads. (They have links to the videos.)

People used a lot of flash and video during the elections to express their views online. With more bandwidth and easier and easier video editing, video as a form of expression will continue to grow. It's interesting how the TV ad as a form is perfect for twisted humor because it is designed to be short and strong and people are used to the format.

Jeff Jarvis has blogged his thoughts on this.


I hadn't seen that before. That's great Andrew.

I'm still in love with that old Honda cog commercial.

But if you listen to this site's background music while you watch the Polo video, it's really a thing of beauty.

Now I want one of those half-pints to take down the bayou... in my truck.

The VW? Why would Volkswagen be upset? hehe

Seriously, we live in a digital rennaissance of dark times. Blog Brothers on one side, Terrorists blowing themselves up on the otherside.

"Only the educated are free" said a Stoic Greek.

How do we attain such freedom in a world wrapped up in conflict?

Maybe Humour is the answer...

The "Fake Puma Ads" probably deserve a mention, too:
As does the early 1970's spoof ad run by National Lampoon showing a VW bug floating in a river with the text "If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen, he'd be president today..." (Go Google "Chappaquiddick" if you don't get that...)

Funny how some of the more memorable ads were the unauthorized ones.
American laws protect parodies, but I doubt I'd try spoofing one of the big multinationals with something like that, at least with my name attached...

Funny how the focus is on how VW is upset but nobody talks about how the 'parody' pigeonholes arabs/palestinians/middle easterns/those wackos with the turbans as just a bunch of people who blow up other people. Cool! So what's the next ethnic group some hip advertising dudes can use in a parody? How about getting four obese white Americans to fit in a small but tough Polo? Or some Washington Heights Dominicans with huge speakers blowing out high volume hip hop and suriving some stray bullets in a small but tough Polo? Or watching a Columbian driving a small but tough Polo escape a kidnapping attempt from the FARC? Any of those would be so, so chill. Lee, Dan, advertisers in general, come on, where's your creativity?

This is Cluetrain stuff?

And Lee and Dan said this wasn't supposed to get out. OK, no problem, let's just forget the whole thing.

Let me get off this train, cause the trip is turning out to be a nightmare.

Sorry, it's a rant but I think it deserves to be so.


With more bandwidth and easier and easier video editing, video as a form of expression will continue to grow.

You apparently didn't notice that all the videos you cited were produced by advertising agencies. These commercials are not "grassroots entertainment," they're products of experienced media companies using sophisticated high-end video and computer graphics equipment.

Good point Miguel.

Charles. I realize that they were all pros. On the other hand, the amateur stuff is getting better I think. And the bandwidth issue was a big one in the past.


Do you know if vloging on a grand scale would be feasible? Heard 'round the blogvine, that Google was buying up massive amounts of unused broadband, left over from the mad speculation of the late 90s.

What happens to our instant gratification culture when every 9 year old, millions of them, has their own blogs, vlogs, IM, and what not?

Sorry, I know this is off-topic, but I am debating on whether I should do a vlog... Cheers!

My first thought was that this might offend a lot of suicide bombers. Well, good. Our leaders ignore the whole 'Hearts and Minds' thing, or just get it seriously wrong. Subversive humour is an important tool against monomaniacal terrorism, and if ads like this (and the Onion's piece about surprised terrorists going to Hell instead of Paradise) can cause even one potential suicide bomber to doubt himself, then that's a good thing.

On the other hand, if the terrorists had any imagination, they'd start using Polos exclusively for their car bombs....

My second thought was more geeky: you don't use a belt-bomb in a car. A car is used so that you can transport a large amount of explosive and shrapnel. You wear a belt-bomb so that you can mingle with a crowd. Setting off a belt-bomb in a car probably would muffle the effect; the explosion itself would be deadened, and the nails and ball-bearings would embed themselves in the doors, facia, seats, etc of the car.

Like I said, geeky.


I don't agree with your suggestion that the ad pigeonholes anybody, most suicide bombings happen in the Middle East, so the average suicide bomber is Middle Eastern which is not the same as saying that the average Middle Eastern person is a suicide bomber.

If there was an ad featuring a dumb white guy as US President, would you complain it unfairly stereotyped dumb white guys?

You should apply a lot more thought before you start beating people with the racism stick or they'll just get used to the pain.


I agree with you. The ad is blatant racism.

For Lee to equate an ad that ridicules a group currently demonized in our culture (arabs) to poking fun at the most powerful man in the world (a US president) is silly. Some people, especially advertising people, seem too jaded to care about the real world, or to think that mass media has any effect on the opinion of the people who watch it. Too bad.

What next? A tsunami wiping out a whole village of Asians leaving a Polo behind 'cause it's so tough? Cool.


The guy's wearing a camouflage jacket and one of those no-longer cool middle-eastern scarves as a short-hand visual code for "suicide bomber". Other than that, I can't tell what race he is: Caucasian, certainly. Probably mediterranean to middle eastern, rather than, say, Irish. But for all I know he could be Indian, or even Mexican. In fact there's a fair chance that the actor is a natural-born Englishman, seeing as the ad was obviously filmed in the UK.

So how exactly is it racist? Because the character is a Bad Man, and you think you can tell what race he is? I blow raspberries at your misplaced indignance.


The ad isn't poking fun at Arabs, it's poking fun at suicide bombers. But since you totally missed the point of my dumb white guys analogy, I'll try to make the clues nice and simple so you might pick up on them:

Suggesting that this ad is racist because it appears to portray an Arab as a suicide bomber while not all Arabs are suicide bombers and not all suicide bombers are Arabs, is as gargling-with-gasoline-stupid as suggesting that an ad portraying two women as lesbians is sexist.

Jeff, it's not poking fun at Arabs or suicide bombers, the ad specifically targets Palestinian bombers given the way he's dressed. Everything indicates Lee and Dan knew exactly what they were after. ('Arab', btw, is much too generic a term, Jeff.)

Think, what if the ad were, instead, a Timothy McVeigh look-a-like driving in front of a Federal-looking building with a day-care center?

It's tasteless and offensive.


Just a bit shocked that you link to a site as Wizbang is :(.
Already seeing who is doing ads there made me sick :(

I've never seen such ads. cool.

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