I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I did, however, find the backlash on one of the commercials to be quite entertaining.
A quick re-cap for those who did not see it, and are currently without access to Youtube: the Coca-Cola commercial featured a montage of people of different cultures playing over “America, The Beautiful,” which was sung in a different language with each changing verse. The commercial started “trending” on Twitter; accusations of Coca-Cola being “un-American” and hashtags of #BoycottCoke and #SpeakAmerican. I think it’s fine if people want to critique the quality of an advertisement. If there is an audience that doesn’t feel a commercial was successful, then it is only within their right to voice that opinion.
It is literally just 60 seconds spent showing diversity in our country. That’s it. It didn’t hone in on one particular nationality or race, nor did it let one language dominate the song. It just aimed to capture different slices of life and portions of our country, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or language. The ad was also the very first Super Bowl commercial to feature a same-sex couple.
The commercial was a genuine effort to show an appreciation for diversity. From a marketing standpoint, it also just makes sense. Our country is mixed in cultural backgrounds and walks of life, which in turn means the company’s buyers are as well.
By taking the time to simply acknowledge different groups, Coca-Cola is earning respect from people they may not have had respect for before. Different people have different values; what one person has a high appreciation for may completely leave someone else’s emotional radar. That is completely fine.
So, while not everyone necessarily needs to appreciate or identify with the content of the advertisement, I feel it is only human and empathetic to realize and accept that there are others who do. I’m sure for many people who felt like their groups were silenced in the media, that 60-second advertisement from a company as big as Coca-Cola meant much more than a marketing gimmick.
Of course, it’s not like Coca-Cola didn’t consider this backlash when writing the commercial. I don’t think that’s why they made the advertisement at all, but with anything in our media, controversy often leads to more sales. The company knew there would be people who disagreed with their advertising, but they were confident enough in their material and intentions to know the effects would not be too harmful for anyone.
But let’s face it, if you’re used to buying a Coke at the checkout line on your way out of the store because you think it tastes better than Pepsi, that probably is not going to change regardless of how you felt about the commercial; at that moment you won’t even remember “boycotting” Coke in the first place.
Coca-Cola is a timeless product of our culture, and will be here for years to come. In two weeks the same people “boycotting” the soda will continue to buy it. For the people upset over the backlash, just remember the fact that the backlash itself seems to have more resistance than the commercial. At the end of the day, maybe the question people should really ask is, “How much soda should we be drinking?”
Anthony Munoz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org