Coca-Cola has canned an ad in which a group of white teens distributed the soft drink among indigenous people to spread some Christmas cheer across their village after it was criticised for its alleged discriminatory nature.
The drinks giant was attacked from several angles for the slot; from health groups amid the country’s obesity crisis, and from a coalition of consumer rights activists.
The Alliance for Food Health coordinated with the National Council to Prevent Discrimination to have the ad pulled due to its representation of the indigenous people of Totontepec de Morelos in Oaxaca.
Elvira Pablo, an indigenous lawyer, condemned the campaign during a press conference in Mexico City on Wednesday: “This type of publicity is an act of discrimination and racism. It is a comment on our type of life and an attempt to put a culture of consumerism in its place.”
The spot, from Ogilvy Mexico, appeared on YouTube on December 1 and was tasked with spreading “a message of union and happiness”. It carried the hashtag #AbreTuCorazon (#OpenYourHeart).
Coca-Cola has issued a statement addressing the backlash, claiming the campaign aimed to spread “a message of union and happiness” and had “never sought to offend or underestimate” any indigenous group. We deeply regret that the message has been misinterpreted when our intention was the exact opposite of the criticism received.”
A number of factors contributed to the public’s adverse reaction to the campaign, with the soft drinks group sparking almost entirely the opposite sentiment than it initially intended.
This news comes during a period of turbulence for the company as its non-profit anti-obesity group Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) closed after its funding was shuttered amid a transparency row.