Coke commercial causes controversy

Coca Cola’s Super Bowl ad has caused quite an uproar on Twitter and Facebook. It seems a lot of people think the song “America the Beautiful” should be sung in English. And English only. They are angry and offended and say so in no uncertain terms.

I was first made aware of the controversy on Pandionna’s blog, but within half an hour I saw a report about it on CNN. And of course when I checked the Internet, I found many stories about it.

I confess the ad got my attention because of the foreign languages. I wasn’t paying much attention to just another pretty, patriotic ad until the foreign languages kicked in. That they made me stop and think was probably intended, and to that extent, it worked. I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention otherwise. However, I was not one of those who immediately thought or wrote or texted, “It should be sung in English. They should learn English.”

Instead, my own prejudices kicked in. “God shed his grace on thee.” I couldn’t help wondering at that instant, “Aren’t there any patriotic songs that don’t mention religion? Do we have to have religion in everything?” And I wished they’d picked a different song to accompany the beautiful images.

And then, instead of thinking all those immigrants should learn English, I found myself wondering how many of them were in the country legally. No, that certainly wasn’t the ad’s intent. But immigration reform was brought up again recently in Obama’s State of the Union address and it’s a political hot potato. I’ve got some strong feelings on the subject, detailed in other posts (basically, no one should enter or stay in this country illegally).

As for whether the song in the ad should have been sung in English, I’d say, “not necessarily.” If Coke intended those people to be aspiring or newly arrived immigrants, fine. It’s logical that they’d be singing in their first language. But like those who took exception to the ad, I think all immigrants in the US should learn English. If those in the ad are meant to be foreign-born Americans who’ve been here awhile, they should be proudly singing in English.

It’s not Coke’s style to deliberately provoke controversy. Harmony has always been their shtick. But if important issues have been raised, if important issues are being thought about and talked about … maybe that’s not such a bad thing.



Categories: advertising, immigration, language, Politics, Society, television, video content

19 replies

  1. I see the usefulness of a common, or even national, language. Were I to move to France (beautiful dreamer, I know), I would speak French, and love every moment of it. But what I take exception to is not the opinion that immigrants should learn English, but that they shouldn’t be allowed to sing a song in their own language just because it’s about the U.S. And then to use racial epithets in expressing a point? That’s just hatred.

  2. Is there really anger over this one or is it just the media? (I haven’t checked around – but the media seems to be foaming at the mouth as usual)..And the Cheerios one which is also cute and a typical scene around here. Don’t really get the outrage there – but the media is all hyped about it
    It was a pretty ad – I kept trying to figure out which language was which…kinda like going to the mall here. Coke does the “one world – we are all alike/things in common” thing a lot – I’m surprised people were surprised. It’s a commercial. Calm down people?
    I agree with the learning the language where you are. Like you say, if in another country, you are expected to learn quickly and obey the laws…all of them.

    • A glance at the comments on Coca Cola’s Facebook page convinces me the media have a point, even after allowing for their usual hype.

      • How sad. So much real stuff to be attended to – and people are focused on a marketing strategy by a multinational corporation. The consumption of coke is down in the states, so maybe wise to encourage other world markets to think Coke is aware of them? It will be interesting to see if in the future this ad becomes “classic” like the like the coke and perfect harmony. Marketing is always interesting. (and how sad it is people have/take time to rage on a Facebook page?…more attention! Free publicity! Winner, fools)

    • Yes, there was a rather disgusting and widespread display of hatred on the internet in response to the ad.

      • With everything going on in the world to think people take time to be the ugly commenter…oh, the internet makes overly emotional people so brave over non issues.
        Wondered if anyone would object to the deod. commercial about “you think these people are scary, but they really aren’t” and the image mirroring the brave young man in front of a tank in China…Then Bob, Bobby D…no irony about pushing big business and consumption of cars? Was that supposed to be patriotic maybe? Marketing and people’s reactions are always fascinating. Always a great show.

  3. I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about it myself. I understand the anger – you take a truly iconic American song, televise it during a purely American television event and then put the multicultural spin on it. The backlash isn’t all that surprising to me. Yes, immigration is a hot potato politically and this commercial I’m sure inspired many people’s frustration over the constant politicizing of the issue, where nothing ever really gets done, other than using it to score points.

    For me, while I love that America is a nation of immigrants, I don’t love the idea that you should come to America and try to create your own small version of your ‘home’ country here. Which is what the whole mufti-culturalism thing seems to be to me.

    Hey, you’re from another country and now want to live in America and be an American? Fabulous. Welcome. So be an American. Embrace our culture, live the dream. But please don’t come here and demand that I have to turn my country into the country you just left.

    Anyway, I thought the commercial sucked. What was the point? And who was the intended market? From a marketing standpoint, I wouldn’t give it high marks. I mean, who do they think watches the Super Bowl? You know what I’m saying?

    Annie

    • While I understand the beauty of our multiculturalism, it seems to me that if you learn one of our songs, you have to learn it in English first, before you can translate it into your native language. So why not just sing it the way you first learn it — in English? I’m not explaining that very well. Just trying to say I don’t understand why anyone would not be singing the song in English. Anything else requires more work. Even when you don’t know the language, you learn lyrics phonetically and sing a song in the language in which it was written. (A different language messes up the rhyme and meter.) For example, when Americans sing “La Marseillaise,” they sing the French lyrics, not an English translation.

      • Heh, do you know the translation? It is one of the bloodiest anthems in the world. In fact, the Americans who spewed epithets and hatred onto the Internet in response to the commercial would probably love it, because it’s an ode to xenophobic paranoia: It’s written on the premise that foreign soldiers are “coming to slit the throats of our sons and wives.”

        • I looked up the translation when I commented. And sure enough, sung in English, the syllables, meter, etc., just don’t work. It sounds so regal and stately in French, when you don’t understand the words. Previously I’d had no idea what was actually being said. Just as well, huh?

  4. It seemed to me on first hearing that the ad was a celebration of America’s immigrant origins. The controversy, which is politically timely, is like politics wherein one’s reaction is immediately colored by one’s political leanings. Personally, I like the commercial and I’m glad Coke made it.

  5. I enjoyed the song and saw nothing offensive in the presentation. What really was offensive was the Broncos’ lack of one. Lighten up, folks. Humans singing in any language to honor a beautiful country deserves praise, not criticism.

"There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees." ~ Michel de Montaigne

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