After our discussion in class around corporations co-opting social justice in ads, specifically the Adidas commercial about Guerilla Gardening, I found an article that further explores the same topic. I also remembered a Coca-Cola ad I had seen a while ago and remember being really impressed with at the time but now feel a nagging discomfort with:

Isn’t this better than just any old ad with paid actors smiling while sipping the drink? Is it a bad thing to see that Coca-Cola is making people smile, bringing them together, “making a change”? If this weren’t an advertisement, if they weren’t expecting anything in return, that would be admirable. But the fact that they are trying to make a good impression and get good PR for the sole purpose of making a profit makes the whole thing seem so insincere, like a charade. I suppose it’s human nature to want to appear good and kind in front of others, which is why it’s important to consider whether or not a person or a corporation would do the same if they had no such audience. There is also the blatant hypocrisy in what people in these large corporations are willing to say to the public and what actually goes on in the company behind the scenes. What may be even sadder is how willing we are as a society to ignore or decide not to care about what these companies are really doing.

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7 responses »

  1. chloekissane says:

    I completely agree with you. It seems like more corporations are trying to sell their product while at the same time using other people’s hardships to unite change. I don’t believe by simply “sharing a coke” will solve all of these issues. It is a powerful message, but the product placement of Coke completely cheapens it.

  2. amihk says:

    when I saw this video a while ago, I remember loving it and thinking, wow coca cola you can do something incredible! But after learning more about the media and corporations, it made me sad to think that they are doing this to sell their products and to promote their image of their companies. I still do love the content of the video and what they did, but yeah coca cola itself wouldn’t solve a problem between two countries.

  3. nlredmond says:

    I agree with you as well. It is interesting to me that so many big corporations do this sort of thing, ie: coopting social justice movements to promote their products. The whole voyeuristic aspect of this ad and others is interesting to think about as well, because where are they showing this ad? The US, probably mostly to white people depending on area/channel, and the ad can satisfy a desire to “do good” while promoting an underlying capitalistic and colonialist agenda.

  4. meganf says:

    I get kind of conflicted about this because I feel like it is possible for companies to make a positive impact even though eventually their focus is sales. For example- the dove campaigns for body positivity. Obviously it was PR for them and they are selling their company and a product, but most people don’t acknowledge those things; most people just see something that makes them feel a little better.

  5. alexanderlandau says:

    I’m also conflicted. I love Coke’s idea to connect people in India and Pakistan through a video chat vending machine. Joining hands on the screen and drawing a peace sign, heart and smiley face is an awesome idea and sends a powerful message. I just get really uncomfortable when the commercial brings the focus back to Coke by the camera focusing in on the Coke logo, people raising Coke bottles in the air and the ending with the Coke logo and slogan “open happiness.” Viewers are left with feeling good about Coke than being happy for those who participated in the event.

  6. jivikar says:

    Here’s another Coke ad that has a powerful social message. I personally think such ads are good because they promote positivity first, and then brand association second. I think people should be able to realize that these kinds of publicity stunts are one-off things (since 99% of Coke consumers have not come into personal contact with such initiatives) and to be honest the Coke product could have been replaced with any other beverage or small snack. The main reason why consumers would share this ad with other friends is because of the genuine smiles on the people’s faces, and not because of the Coke bottle/logo in the end. Even though less educated consumers may believe Coke is a clean company doing good deeds after watching these ads, I think they would relate to the human elements rather than to the product placement more, which would make them want to replicate and pay forward the happiness they saw in their own way, as opposed to just purchase more Coke…

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