“VW Rethinks Its High-Testosterone Ads”: Volkswagen

This reading of The Wall Street Journal article, “VW Rethinks Its High-Testosterone Ads”, Volkswagen responds to the request of Miami customers, Cuban-dominated Miami customers. “In English, Turbo-Balls might not sound so offensive, but in the Spanish-speaking community, it will always have a vulgar connotation.” (Jordan) Volkswagen removed billboards in New York, Los Angeles and Miami after receiving complaints that a word used in an advertisement was offensive to Hispanics.

The ad for the new GTI 2006 had a photo of the sports car accompanied by the words “Turbo-Cojones.” Cojones, which means testicles in Spanish, has become a casually used term for boldness or guts in English but has never lost its more vulgar connotations in its native language. A billboard in the Miami neighborhood of Little Havana generated complaints, and the company decided to remove it. Volkswagen AG has received no complaints for its billboards in New York and Los Angeles but decided to pull them anyway.

People who are reading it in a Spanish neighborhood, it will have a different effect for them … because they realize the real connotation. “For us Latinos, it’s a bad word. It’s offensive,” said Hector Calderon, maintenance supervisor of a fitness center in Los Angeles. But he concedes, “A billboard like that sure attracts attention.” (Jordan)

The original billboard was not intended to offend anyone. Instead, it was an attempt to convey that the GTI is a high-performance sports car. It is admirable that Volkswagen took into consideration the cultural differences and complied with request to remove the ad. The billboards will be replaced with two ads, with one saying “Here today, gone tamale” and the other “Kick a little gracias.”

Marketing is a key factor in business, which outlines the concepts of society’s needs, wants and demands. It is through the exchanging of products and value with others that laws are needed to regulate the market place. However, certain situations are not provided for in law. As a standard of conduct in business, ethical behavior is important when facing the challenge of balancing the best interests of consumers. This is because consumers are informed buyers who base moral principals in transactions revolving around an organization’s marketing mix of pricing, product, promotion and place.

Advertising may produce negative attention by consumers in an ethical sense and may damage an organization’s reputation. This can be seen as an example of cultural pollution where-by commercials on television for example, may be ignored by those not in the target market.


Jordan, Miriam “VW Rethinks Its High-Testosterone Ads” Busisnessweek March 20, 2006, Page B1