Horrible Coke ad preyed on minorities

Horrible Coke ad preyed on minorities

[Ed. – Nice try, Coke, but they’re onto you.]

I braced myself for the predictable right-wing outrage. But perhaps those of us who care about inequality and racism should be angry, too. Coca-Cola’s diversity ad wasn’t purposed just to celebrate the reality of a multi-ethnic America. It was to sell soda to rapidly-expanding but vulnerable populations, even if that means contributing to serious health problems, exploiting divides in class and education, and exacerbating racial inequality.

The genius of the Coca-Cola company is that they made the racial aspect of soda marketing work in their favor with this ad. Conservative indignation came immediately, and Twitter exploded with objections to the spot. “We speak ENGLISH here, IDIOTS” pretty much sums up the complaints. …

Coca-Cola knew exactly what it was doing with this commercial. It knew it would inflame white conservatives, but, more importantly, it knew the commercial would align Coke with Latinos and other quickly-growing groups in the United States. So Coke expands its market share and promotes its product while endorsing a vision of a diverse, multi-cultural America. What’s the harm?

Unfortunately, the harm lands squarely on the bodies of kids and families with few resources. Educated, affluent white Americans are drinking less soda than they were a few years ago, and soft drink makers now rely largely on “heavy users” – those who drink several sodas every day – to keep their businesses booming. Heavy users tend to be in lower-income areas – places New Orleans, Louisiana and Rome, Georgia. Coke is trying to expand that model. Long dominant in Latin America – that region is Coke’s second-largest market – the company has been trying to capture the Latino market in the United States through target marketing. That is, of course, how businesses operate. But Coca-Cola’s model depends on consumers who drink significantly more soda than average – a habit that comes with a series of serious health consequences – and on targeting children, who will (ideally) be life-long Coke drinkers. …

Coke’s targeting of Latino and other immigrant populations is about as progressive as RJ Reynolds marketing menthol cigarettes to African-Americans or Phillip Morris hawking Virginia Slims to women – that is, not very. Before we applaud Coke’s advertising diversity, we should ask: do we really want Coke to diversify?

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