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How Coca Cola's beautiful super bowl ad ignored the risks

By Benjamin Haslem

Coca Cola's 60-second commercial aired during Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII broadcast is, you would think, to most casual observers, beautiful.

The #AmericaIsBeautiful video is a celebration of the USA's rich cultural melting pot and spectacular and diverse landscape.

But it seems not everyone in the US agrees.

The advertisement begins with a female voice singing the US patriotic song America The Beautiful as a cowboy on a white steed emerges from a wilderness pine forest.

Cut to a view across a lake to snow capped mountains, more pine forests in the middle ground, and you start getting the sense this ad wants to tap into viewers' patriotism.

A quick shot of the cowboy rubbing his ride's nose seems to confirm this. So far, no products in site (unless they're selling white horses).

Then things change.

We're confronted with a tight shot of a woman's face in a cinema as she blows a pink ball of bubble gum. As American as apple pie.

But the singer has changed. And so has the language. It's not English! It's Spanish.

From this point each line of the song is delivered in a different language, popping back into English at one point before climaxing with "from sea to shining sea" in English.

Coke has copped a blizzard of criticism in the States since the ad was aired.

Most of it is simply too racist to repeat here but needless to say the soft drink giant has been called to task for messing with such an iconic American song.

The Tweet below is a good representation of the type of response Coke elicited. 

Public Shaming has a gallery of responses.

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As I wrote about recently, using patriotic icons in a marketing campaign is a high-risk endeavour, especially if you're going to tamper with them. It risks a major PR disaster.

It seems in the US, that risk is multiplied significantly.

Coca-Cola should have done a risk analysis on this.

Maybe they tried it on focus groups and no one complained.

Perhaps the Twitter trolls only represent less than one per cent of viewers and more than that will be won over to or stay with Coke.

Or maybe Coke should have played it safe.

Either way, they're getting a lot of publicity and all for the wrong reasons.(Interestingly, the ad also includes two gay men ice skating with their daughter, though that seems to have been missed by the critics. LGBT media advocacy organisation, GLADD, said it was the first Super Bowl as to feature a gay family and called it a "step forward for the advertising industry".)