Coca-Cola multi-language ad sparks online fury, skeptism

TORONTO – Coca-Cola’s 2014 Super Bowl commercial appeared designed to showcase America’s diversity and beauty.

It also sparked an online backlash from both sides of the political spectrum – individuals disgusted with airtime given to non-English speakers and same-sex relationships, and those disturbed by the use of diversity to sell Coke.

The commercial – called “It’s beautiful” – featured a version of “America the Beautiful” sung in seven different languages juxtaposed against images of same sex relationships, cultural and racial diversity. It showcased Americans of different ethnic, sexual and cultural backgrounds, riding horses, watching movies, eating, swimming, dancing – you know, “American” things.

After the ad aired during the Super Bowl, outraged cola drinkers took to social media to slam Coca-Cola for the ad’s use of multiple languages, equating non-white actors in the ad with terrorists.

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(The Pew Research Center – a U.S.-based non-partisan think tank – was quick to point out that 21 per cent of Americans speak a language other than English at home, the vast majority of which also speak English “well” or “very well.” Some 37.6 million Americans speak Spanish in their home.)

Many threatened to switch to Coke’s main competitor for the “injustice.”

A few people also commented on the ad’s depiction of same sex relationships.

Of course many showed their support for the ad, applauding the use of diverse Americans in a commercial meant to feature the country’s beauty.

The company responded on Twitter indirectly, thanking those who offered positive reactions for their support.

Others cautioned that even those in support of diversity and against racism and homophobia should still be wary of the ad – saying it is, after all, just a mechanism for selling soda.

“Coca-Cola’s diversity ad wasn’t purposed just to celebrate the reality of a multi-ethnic America. It was to sell soda to rapidly-expanding but vulnerable populations, even if that means contributing to serious health problems, exploiting divides in class and education, and exacerbating racial inequality,” wrote Jill Filipovic in the Guardian.

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“What this ethnically and linguistically diverse commercial tells me is that Coca-Cola has made a hard-headed calculation that diversity is where the customers are and will be,” wrote John E. McIntyre for the Baltimore Sun.

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