Sunday, September 20, 2020


Dear Readers,
         In spite of the fact that it is well known that hair is quite a sensitive subject for Black women, Volkswagen has chosen to screen an advert on DStv that shows a Black woman being belittled about her hair by her hairdresser, in front of an audience of several concerned women in the salon. 
         This has been done to promote the totally unrelated subject of Volkswagen’s service plan.
         It made its debut digitally in April and started airing on TV in August this year. It is still appearing. Unlike the TRESemme` hair care one that caused such a storm, this ad does not come across as obviously racist, although some might argue that they would not have filmed a white women being treated in the same way.
         It consists of a Black woman sitting in a chair in a salon while her Black hairdresser is doing her hair. The conversation goes like this:
Hair Dresser (HD): What’s news, what’s news girl? I want to hear everything.
Client (C): So I started a new job and ….
HD: And then…
C: Hmm?
HD: Did you do your hair recently?
C: Um,well. It was my sister’s wedding and you were busy, I had to make a plan.
At about this point the hairdresser, clearly angry because the woman had her hair done elsewhere, starts pulling the woman’s head around and combing her hair roughly.
HD: Okay.
C: It was just one time.
The woman continues to be roughed up by the hair dresser as a row of women sitting on chairs opposite her look on with concerned looks on their faces.
HD: It’s fine.
C: I didn’t mean anything.
HD: I said it’s fine.
Man standing at a dryer: No it’s not fine.
C: Yno…..
Man: It’s not fine.
C: If only maintaining my hair was as easy as maintaining the value of my Volkswagen. With EasyDrive vehicle plans you get service per schedule from qualified Volkswagen experts. It ends with the hairdresser pulling her head as roughly as ever to one side and the client saying Hay!!

The Client started off looking relaxed and happy, but her expression changed as she became increasingly alarmed at the way her head was being pulled around and her hair was being was being very forcibly combed.

*   *   *

         When I saw the ad on DStv I put three questions to Dr Robert Cisek head of Volkswagen in South Africa. For such a large, international company this vehicle manufacturer’s public relation leaves much to be desired.


Dr Robert Cisek

I phoned its head office in Uitenhage; said I was a journalist and asked to speak to Dr Cisek or his PA; or to be given their email addresses. I was told I could not have these and that I should send my inquiries to this email address: .This turned out to be no support at all, although my emails were addressed to Dr Cisek.
         After getting four “we’ll be in touch” emails with Andrew Shaw’s name on them, when I asked when I could expect a reply, I finally received the answers to my questions. I only got them after I threatened to write that Dr Cisek had no comment to make, unless he or some other senior person at Volkswagen responded by noon the following day.
         They came from Andile Dlamini, Head of Group Communications, Volkswagen, SA. My first question was: “In view of the fact that it is well known that hair is quite a sensitive subject for Black women; what was the thinking that justified belittling a Black woman in a salon to advertise Volkswagen’s Service Plan?” The other two have been answered elsewhere in this post so it’s not necessary for me to repeat the actual questions.
         Dlamini replied: “Volkswagen is aware of the public dialogues, debates and cultural sensitivities around the topic of hair. We believe, together with our creative partners, that our ‘EasyDrive’ advert depicts a universal insight around the relationship between hairdressers and their clients that has no attachment to any specific race, culture, gender or political view. The intended message behind the ad is not to claim that any particular hair type is difficult - or easy - to maintain, but rather what the relationship one has with their hairdresser can be. The ad draws a parallel between this relatable relationship and the one between our customers and service teams. It’s a story about ‘relationships’ and pride in one’s workmanship and the importance of ‘loyalty’ to people who care about their service.’
         “With close to 300 000 views on YouTube alone,” he said, “the EasyDrive ad has been well received by our consumers with the majority of responses finding the analogy highly relatable. We understand that opinions may vary and we are always open to engaging with our customers and audiences on their feedback, positive or negative, to understand all the possible ways our ads are perceived.”
           He added that they had had “No’ complaints about the ad.“As the People’s Car, Volkswagen believes in always putting people first and so we do not support or disseminate advertising messages that are derogatory to any culture, race, gender or group.”


Jon, a Consumer Watchdog.

P.S. If Volkswagen is not more careful that freedom of speech advocate Julius Malema, and his EFFing followers, could be DEMANDING free cars for every female member of their Party.
P.P.S. The TRESemme`ad row resulted in 400 Clicks stores that stocked it having to close briefly, because of widespread protests by the EFF. 

P.P.P.S. This is what Mark Rayner the CEO of MultiChoice the owner of DStv had to say about this ad.






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