Controversial Coke Super Bowl Commercial?

by - February 08, 2014

So for those of you who don't know, the Super Bowl was this past Sunday. It is the biggest day in American Football (American sports really)...which means the highest ratings. So of course the network has taken advantage of this by charging high premiums for advertising slots during the game. In fact, many people I know (including myself) only watch for the commercials (and maybe halftime show) if we watch at all!

This year I didn't watch the game as it started at about 10:30pm London time, and of course I wouldn't be able to watch the commercials!

However, thanks to the wonders of technology I've seen lots of them floating around. Some really tugged at my heartstrings like the Budweiser commercial with the puppy and Budweiser Clydesdales. (I'm from St. Louis so the clydesdales usually get me anyway and as I'm really missing my pets it was just emotions all over!)

This is the commercial Budweiser produced

Another commercial that was shared by a few people on Facebook was the Coca-Cola Ad featuring the song 'America the Beautiful' sung in several different languages. 

The America Is Beautiful ad produced by Coca-Cola

Unfortunately, my Facebook friends (and the rest of the internet population) seemed to be a bit more divided regarding this ad. I recommend you watch it and form your own opinions. I will be sharing mine, but it's not so much to try and convince anyone a certain way or change anyone's mind. It's more because after viewing the video and reading a couple shared blog posts the ad and the response to it really got me thinking. 

The gist of the commercial is that it features many people singing a very recognizable and patriotic song in several different languages and who clearly come from different cultures. To me, this is the perfect representation of America. 

We have long been a nation of immigrants and this is something that many Americans I've known are still proud of to this day. If you ask an American what they are or what their heritage is you'll often hear them reply with 'I'm half Italian, half Irish' or 'I'm a quarter German, a quarter Polish, and half Scottish' or something along those lines. In many cases this heritage is passed down from two, three or more generations back and the individual has never even been to the country who's heritage they are claiming. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is a bad thing at all. I think it's great so many American claim their historical heritage, but they are generations removed from it. And I think that might be one of the reasons that some awfully ugly things were said about this multicultural Coke commercial. 

I saw this post by Allen West on his blog on a friend's Facebook timeline. It was the first I had seen the ad. In this post Mr. West calls the commercial "disturbing" and cites a lengthy quote from former President Theodore Roosevelt (which I couldn't claim to know if it is entirely accurate or not) that states all immigrants to America should learn English and assimilate into the culture. 

Later in the comments section I read through a few that were even more negative about the commercial and one woman who mentioned her time as a expat living in Germany where she tried to learn the language and made mistakes along the way, but at least wasn't expecting everyone to speak English to her. 

The other post I read was from Talking Points Memo and can be found here. This post started by drawing very clear political lines and saying conservatives were upset by the commercial. It mentioned several individuals who said very negative things about the commercial. Including a Twitter post from Todd Starnes saying "Couldn't make out that song they were singing. I only speak English." The comments on the TPM article were as anti-conservative as the other was pro.

Now I don't really want to make this blog a political leaning blog, but I just felt the need to write out my opinion about this commercial and why I'm disappointed with the negative responses.

Firstly, I thought the commercial was beautiful. The imagery, the song, the inclusiveness - all of it gave me goosebumps. I happen to be one of those Americans who's ancestors have been in America for a long time and who weren't wealthy landowners so despite a lot of effort on my mom's part, it's been difficult to definitively prove who immigrated to America when and where they came from. I was always jealous of the people I'd meet with Italian grandparents who had learned the language and recipes! I remember going to Ellis Island when I was younger and being disappointed we didn't have any ancestors to try and look up as I think that would have been so moving to stand in that place knowing my family had been through there. But just because they didn't come in those waves, as we're not aware of Native American heritage then they must have been immigrants sometime!

This history of immigration is integral to American history. It is something that has never been without prejudices and difficulties, but just seems to have continually more negative connotations, or at least it's easier to find people's negative sentiments. Now I'm an immigrant in another country which also has it's fair share of negative propaganda about immigrants and their lack of desire to learn English and assimilate into British culture. 

I think this experience I'm going through is part of what made me extra sensitive to the negativity surround this Coke commercial. I don't have the same language barrier here in England as is being touched upon in the discussion about the commercial. But the truth is despite being a native English speaker in an English speaking country there are still differences. They seem silly at first, what I would call chips are called crisps here. And what I would call the trunk of a car is the boot in England. When I'm in public I use these words. If I go to a pub I don't ask for a burger and fries, I ask for a burger and chips. But you know what, when I'm at home with my husband I still call them fries because that's what I'm used to and what I've said for 27 years!

I know this is an over simplification. But it was the first thing that popped in my head especially when I read the woman talking about living in Germany on the Allen West post. I thought to myself that yes she learned to speak German while out and about interacting with locals and that's great, but I bet when talking to friends and family while there she still spoke English because that's her native language. So how is that any different to an immigrant that speaks English at work or in a store and their native language at home?

While I was in St. Louis there were a lot of relatively recent immigrants from Bosnia and there was a pretty decent sized population in my schools. Every classmate I had spoke English very well and many still spoke Bosnian to their friends who shared that language. I also know that at least some (if not most/all) of them spoke Bosnian at home with their families as well. 

But just because they still spoke Bosnian with friends and family doesn't automatically mean that can't or won't speak English. 

To lay all my cards out on the table, yes, I agree that if you move to a country with a language different from your own you should do your best to learn the language and learn the cultural norms and make the most of living in this new place. 

However, I don't think that means you can't also maintain and celebrate your heritage including language, cultural practices, food, anything really. I'm not going to stop celebrating The 4th of July or Thanksgiving, I'm going to continue those celebrations while adding the important days in the UK. And I think that finding a way to incorporate your culture while honoring your new home makes for a great tribute and a bridging of your past and present. 

I think America would be in a truly sad state if we hadn't adopted cultural aspects from various waves of immigration. 

Look at the Budweiser ad. No one is complaining about the fact that it was produced by a company founded by two German immigrants. Adolphus Busch married Lilly Anheuser (who's father was the co-founder). I bet it was a comfort to them to be around fellow Germans when they first immigrated to the States. I bet they spoke German at home and did business in English. In fact their beer is an example of something we Americans have adopted from another culture. Is it because they immigrated 150 or so years ago and it doesn't matter anymore? Or have we forgotten that even these familiar individuals came here much like the immigrants of today?

I guess what I'm trying to say (not very eloquently) is that I think the Coca-Cola ad hit the nail on the head. Our nation is made up of immigrants. We are a relatively young nation that has been shaped by influences from all across the globe. This commercial celebrates that fact and illustrates it by using language and song. They could have just as easily chosen a different way to celebrate our diversity, but I think it was beautiful and emotive to hear different languages transitioning seamlessly and all expressing an appreciation for America. 

And it made me feel proud of my home country. She may not be perfect, but there is so much beauty in not only our land, but in our people. 

Coke was right. America is beautiful. 

You May Also Like


  1. I think people are way too anal about political correction and it irks the f out of me! If it was an advert full of white people with 2.4 children and a family dog they would be kicking off saying that it didn't represent the country, is raciest, suggests whites are superious. I think it's wonderful than in 2014 everyone is so accepting of other countries, cultures and religions - I think that is what Coca Cola were trying to get across. Of course people have to ruin it and take away the true meaning of an advert which was intended to celebrate diversity.

    Poop on them.

    Corinne x

  2. That commercial made me tear up because I thought it was so beautiful. I saw it as a celebration of what it actually means to be an American; to live in one place with people whose ancestors would have had no way to have met each other. I do think that it's important to try to learn English on a very basic level if you're going to live in the US simply because it's the official language and you will be more easily understood in the community, but everyone here (with the exception of the small population of pure-blood Native Americans) came from somewhere else, so why not celebrate that?

    1. Completely agree, well said. Glad to see others saw the commercial as beautiful too!