Why Coca-Cola just apologized for this Christmas ad

Soft drink super-company Coca-Cola pulled an online advertisement after being met with strong protests re: the way the ad’s subject matter was handled. According to The Guardian, Coke responded to the outrage by quickly stepping in to remove the advertisement, so at least there’s that.

The advertisement in question showed a group of young, mostly white teens working together to bring soda and build a Coca-Cola-themed Christmas tree to an indigenous population in the town of Totontepec in Oaxaca State, presumably as some sort of charity project. Somewhat incongruously over these graphics, subtitles say that 81.6% of Mexico’s indigenous population feels rejected for speaking languages other than Spanish.

The ad, which Coca-Cola says was meant to inspire feelings of “unity and joy” instead was read as offensive by many.

The Alliance for Food Health, a coalition of health-related groups, protested the ad, saying it was insulting to indigenous people and promotes unhealthy eating. The protest was quickly taken up on twitter under the hashtag #AbreTuCorazon, which means “open your heart” and was used as the ending tag on the advertisement.

Concerns about the ad focus both on its condescending treatment of the indigenous people, but also the danger posed by an unhealthy diet. The Guardian also claims indigenous Mexicans suffer from high rates of both obesity and diabetes, and the nation is one of the biggest consumers of soda in the world. 

Coke acted swiftly in response to criticism, and the ad was pulled from the company’s YouTube site. With hope, the marketing department of one of the world’s biggest corporations will see this as an opportunity to learn, rather than just a PR hiccup. In the meantime, they should probably just stick to Christmas commercials with adorable polar bears. 

(Image via Coca-Cola)