Coke Super Bowl Ad "racist"
Who's saying what
A new Super Bowl ad campaign by Coca-Cola has been slammed by Arab-American groups who say it’s racist.
The Coke Chase ad, showing a variety of desert dwellers vying for a mirage of a giant bottle of that sticky black gold, portrays a stereotypical Arab man leading camels who is quickly left behind by the more Western-friendly Cowboys, Badlanders (a scruffy crew of bikers) and Showgirls.
“Why is it that Arabs are always shown as either oil-rich sheiks, terrorists or belly dancers?” Warren David, president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said.
Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, said the commercial “portrayed Arabs as backward and foolish camel jockeys [who] have no chance to win in the world”.
Coke says the characters in the ad were “a nod to the movies of the past” – and if you hover over the characters in the clip you can be taken to their personal Tumblr pages.
The Arab man is based upon Vincent de Fairweather, the star of 1920s silent film The Kalaharian.
His Tumblr is a surprisingly extensive retrospective on his 20-second commerical role and features some meme-worthy moments, though the humour in them is somewhat questionable due to the racial stereotypes at play.
“Coca-Cola is an inclusive brand enjoyed by all demographics,” Lauren Thompson, a spokeswoman for the brand, told the Ottawa Sun.
But people are questioning why, in a poll on the promo’s website asking viewers who should win the race, there is no option to vote for the Arab character.
Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs at the ADC, argued that “by not including the Arab in the race, it is clear the Arab is held to a different standard when compared with the other characters…What message is Coke sending with this?”
He said ADC intended to contact Coke and CBS Corporation today to “start a dialogue” and fight for the ad to be changed before the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Given that the company has a big share of the market in the Middle East and North Africa, and many convenience stores and other retail outlets are owned by Arab-Americans, he said, “Coke should understand and respect their consumers and have a better understanding of the market they are sharing.”
It remains to be seen if Coke will own up to any discrimination and make any effort to change the clip before it airs to an estimated 40% of U.S. households. The Super Bowl is the country’s highest rating TV event, garnering a record 111.3 million viewers last year.
Watch the clip below and decide for yourself.