A minister in Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial government has asked Vrbo, a vacation rental marketplace, to remove an ad he says demeans a beloved popular song and the province.
Steve Crocker, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, said in a statement Monday that he spoke with company leaders and asked that they remove the video from their online platforms and television.
The ad features the popular song “I’se the b’y” over videos of a barn and screeching farm animals, and shows travelers disappointed with their accommodations.
“I’s the B’y is synonymous with our province and culture,” Crocker said. “As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we strongly object to Vrbo using the song in this derogatory manner.”
The ad was posted on YouTube on Jan. 27, but it gained a lot more attention when it aired during Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Crocker said his department has received “countless complaints” about the commercial, and even more since Sunday night.
In a statement, a Vrbo spokesperson said “the ad mocks our competition, not anyone in Newfoundland.”
The company did not respond to questions about why the song was chosen, whether it knew the song’s origin before it was chosen and whether it would remove the commercial from its ongoing advertising campaigns.
The song “I’se the B’y” is older than the Terranova records; Nobody knows who sang it for the first time. It has been recorded several times by popular artists and is a staple in the province’s primary school curriculum.
Korona Brophy, who works with folk music group The Celtic Fiddlers, said the song is a big part of Newfoundland history and Vrbo’s use of it was a disgrace.
Kristina Ennis was one of the first to complain on social media when she heard the commercial on the Super Bowl broadcast.
“People live in rural settings all over the world, and there is immense value in living that type of lifestyle,” he said Monday. “I think the commercial really demeans that.”
He said he wrote to the company after seeing the ad and invited them to learn more about the province, which he noted has several hundred listings on the Vrbo platform.
“I’m very passionate about where I come from,” he said. “I don’t like the stereotype that is perpetuated about Newfoundland and Labrador most of the time, I’m going to talk about it.”
The commercial generated a lot of criticism on social media platforms such as X, formerly Twitter, and Facebook.
Opinion was divided, with many users posting that the provincial government’s focus on Vrbo’s advertising options was misplaced.
But even Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey weighed in on the controversy, writing that the province has a lot to offer.
“Your ad is not an accurate representation of our province, our culture or our people,” he wrote. “Be better!”
With files from The Canadian Press