Crisis Management

Coke’s Difficult Choice

31 Jan , 2013  

Coca-Cola has a Super Bowl problem.

The iconic brand’s Super Bowl campaign is coming under fire from people who claim it reflects negative stereotypes of Arabs. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, for example, is calling on Coke to change course.

Coke has to be concerned; you never want your brand to be accused of discrimination.

Back when I was at Kraft Foods I worked on a spectacular commercial for Miracle Whip that featured an Indiana Jones type character making his way through a traditional Moroccan market. I can’t recall the plot but at some point he ended up with an empty jar of Miracle Whip and this caused much concern, as you might imagine.

We put the spot on network television and immediately received word that some groups (including, I believe, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) found it offensive because it promoted stereotypes. We quickly took the spot off the air and ran another one instead.

It isn’t quite so easy for Coke; companies don’t have lots of Super Bowl spots sitting around.

So what are the options?

– Drop the entire campaign and run something else. This is not an appealing proposition.

– Run it despite the criticism. This is also an unattractive option.

– Edit the spot to reduce the offensive images. This is not a good option, either; changes might impact the quality of the spot and fail to address the criticism.

I understand why some marketers choose to avoid all the Super Bowl scrutiny.


5 Responses

  1. Abbas Mooraj says:

    According to the below linked new report, the Arab winning is not even an option in the choices, then why portray him. IMO, Coke can easily take that piece out of the Ad and shorten it without losing its message.
    http://www.nbcnews.com/business/arab-american-groups-say-coke-super-bowl-ad-racist-1B8191874

  2. Stereotypes are a form of creative crutch. Lazy storytellers depend on them.

  3. Shira Abel says:

    Coke has a history with the arab population. The Arab League boycotted Coke in arab nations for decades because after the Arab League threatened Coke if they sold Coke in Israel – Coke went ahead and sold Coke in Israel.

    http://articles.latimes.com/1988-07-08/business/fi-6762_1_arab-league

    My guess – they will go ahead with the ad as is. I haven’t seen the ad and have no opinion on the offensiveness of the ad or whether it’s right or wrong to do.

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