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'VW ad man' here to promote Brand Jamaica

BY HORACE HINES Observer staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2013    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Actor Erik Nicolaisen, star of the controversial commercial developed by automobile manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) for broadcast during the recent Super Bowl in the United States, arrived in the island yesterday as guest of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).

Nicolaisen, accompanied by his Jamaican brother-in-law Robert Murphy, was met at the Sangster International Airport by Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill, Director of Tourism John Lynch, as well as other JTB officials.

Nicolaisen, whose role in the VW 'Get Happy' commercial helped to promote Brand Jamaica, will be participating in a number of promotional activities for Destination Jamaica.

"The Super Bowl VW ad created a lot of controversy... a lot of recognition for Jamaica and what is Brand Jamaica. So based upon that, the Jamaica Tourist Board has been in contact with the participants, and we are happy to welcome today Erik, also known as Dave, Sticky Bond Man, and his brother-in-law, Murphy, who are here in Jamaica and will be spending a few days with us," Dr McNeill told reporters yesterday.

Nicolaisen was happy to be in the island to participate in the promotional activities.

"...Thanks to the Tourist Board for bringing me here. We are going to do some video shoots to promote Brand Jamaica. I am an actor, that's what I do for a living... so if I can come down and act to help Jamaica, what a joy! That's why I am here," said an upbeat Nicolaisen .

"I am so overwhelmed with this whole experience. It's been a crazy three weeks," he said, adding that the VW ad "is not really high art, but it represents a culture I appreciate".

At the same time, Nicolaisen downplayed the controversy sparked by the commercial.

"I am an actor, I was hired two days before this commercial was made. It was written long before. I am just an actor, I was just out there representing an accent that I can do. As for the controversy, I am not in a position to affirm or deny how it makes people feel. Race is an issue, but racism is a part of American history and you can't discount it," he said. "But personally, from my end, as a fan of reggae music and Jamaican culture and also international reggae culture, I am familiar with people of all different cultures and origins, speaking in patois or singing reggae music," he said.

His obsession with the Jamaican dialect has been ostensibly influenced by his sister's Jamaican husband, Murphy, who is from Linstead, St Catherine, but is now living overseas.

"I just tell him (Nicolaisen) how we (Jamaicans) talk. Like we wouldn't say, turn the smile around, we would say turn the smile round, turn round the smile. So to make it a little more universal you have to put a little cross of English to turn the smile around," said Murphy.

The commercial, which can be seen on YouTube, went viral and has been creating a frenzy with multiple reports in sections of the international media.

Both the Government and Opposition have given the commercial the thumbs up.

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