The cliche goes something like this – I watch the Super Bowl for the ads.
This year my nerdy-self watched the Super Bowl to see if Richard Sherman would drop some good trash talking, draw the ire of the internets and television commentators and make pointed observations about race, as he is known to do.
But Richard got injured, and the ads, well they taught me something.
Some racists (uh oh I’m playing the racist card) are pissed off about Coca-Cola’s ad in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in multiple languages by people of different ethnicities, races, and religions. The ad also featured two dads roller skating with their presumed daughter (according to GLAAD, the first Super Bowl ad to feature a “gay” family).
The twitterverse lit up with xenophobic comments, typical crap like “You can’t sing an American song in another language.”
Coke just proved you wrong, d-bag.
Let’s ignore the fact that Coke is contributing to the declining health of everyone who drinks it, and the less than stellar labor practices. Let’s just look at the cultural significance of this ad.
Ads are a great example of story telling. Companies aim to press emotional buttons and get people buy the things they sell. Companies need to hit the right emotional tone with their presumed consumer base, therefore ads can be an interesting barometer of what is compelling, emotionally, to sections of the public. Super Bowl ads are… well… the Super Bowl of ads. generally speaking over one hundred million people tune in to watch the event, and marketers spend on average $4 million for a 30 second spot.
I got these numbers from a quick interweb search, Coke’s highly paid ad team have all the breakdown based on insane research AND they decided to show a multi-ethnic America. This is not a melting-pot image of miscegenation nation, this is “America” defined by difference. The commonality expressed in the ad is the concept of America, America made beautiful by difference (and Coke). Coke basically said, hey all you jerks out there who want to build a boarder fence, who want to deport anyone who is not white, who want to stop queers from getting married, we don’t care if you buy Coke or not. In fact, Coke said, we care more about those who oppose you, we want them to buy Coke.
It could be argued that Coke is pushing the edge and making a political/cultural stand, but that would fly in the face of Cokes recent history with racist marketing.
This ad could be seen as an indication of the power of the immigrant rights movement, and the GLBT anti-discrimination movement. The company is not only marketing to particular consumers, they are marketing to an America it believes will be emotionally inspired to buy its product because of the image it reflects to that America.
I want to live in Coca Cola’s America, without all of the obesity, tooth decay, and corporate power, of course.
And they are smart, so making an ad that draws controversy equals a ton more free advertising.