General Motors found itself in a spot of bother after airing an advert for the Chevrolet Trax that was deemed racist. The offending advert used a backing track that referred to China as “the land of Fu Manchu,” and used the phrase, “ching-ching, chop suey.”
The full lyrics read: “Now, in the land of Fu Manchu, The girls all now do the Suzie-Q, Clap their hands in the centre of the floor, Saying “ching-ching, chop suey, swing some more”.
The lyrics, from the 1938 song, Booty Swing, caused a number of viewers to complain, with the South China Morning Post being particularly vocal, using the word ‘racist’ in its headline. The advert was subsequently pulled.
Chevrolet, which had been broadcasting the advert on its European website and on Canadian TV since early April, was quick to apologise for the upset.
Faye Roberts, General Motors Canada’s communications director, told the South China Morning Post the Trax advert had created, “some negative feedback regarding the lyrics,” and that, “once the issue was called to our attention, GM immediately removed the offensive content from the commercial.”
She added: “As the goal of advertising is to engage an audience and draw their attention to a featured product and it is never our intention to offend the audience, we made a decision to edit the advertisement.”
Although removed completely from circulation, the ‘After Midnight’ advert has since been reissued ─ only this time sans stereotyping.
Considering the advert is set in the 1930s, we can see the logic behind the use of Booty Swing by Parov Stelar mixed with a sample from Oriental Swing by Lil Armstrong and her Swing Orchestra. Chevrolet clearly never intended to offend. However, a number of sensitive viewers were enraged enough to pop in a complaint so perhaps a bit more listening beforehand by the advertising department would’ve saved a lot of hassle.
Still, as the saying goes, publicity – whether good or bad – is better than no publicity at all.
With that in mind, check out our review of the Chevrolet Trax.