Coca-Cola is not backing down.
To celebrate the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Coke released a longer version of what is becoming the most talked about 2014 Super Bowl ad, “America Is Beautiful,” in which “America the Beautiful” is sung in many languages common to American immigrants.
This is Coke’s response to the conservative backlash that erupted, according to ABC News, within seconds of the Super Bowl ad airing, with tweets saying, “This is an outrage. America the Beautiful in foreign languages” and “Never buying Coke again. America the Beautiful in a language other than English is just wrong” and the hashtag #BoycottCoke. (Meanwhile, supporters of diversity are using Coke’s proposed hashtag, #AmericaIsBeautiful).
“Everybody was talking about it,” Adweek’s managing editor Lisa Granatstein told ABC. “It was really part of the national conversation.” (It should be noted that Coke’s ad also showed footage of a gay family – although the gay factor hasn’t caused the same uproar.) In a statement, Coke explained it was standing by – and expanding – its ad because “the overall message of inclusion communicated by the ad reflects some of Coca-Cola’s most important values.”
Coke’s got more news for the conservative boycotters: All the foreign-language singers are Americans. Not only that; they’re all adorable American girls, who are sunny and positive about America. And nothing can win a culture battle more decisively than adorable, happy American children. Coke released a series of behind-the-scenes videos, showing each girl in the recording studio.
“When I sing the song, I feel really happy. I feel joyful,” says Naya, the smiley American girl singing in Arabic in the ad. “We should always be friendly to each other, no matter what difference you have.”
“The message that we’re sending through this video, it’s so beautiful,” offers Sushmitha, who sings in Hindi. “We are all the same. We just have different backgrounds. And that’s okay. We’re all Americans and we can come together.”
Her little-kid legs swinging from the chair, Leilani, who sings in Tagalog, says the ad will make people “feel really good in themselves ... to hear it in many other languages spoken, especially if one of those languages is one that you speak, then it will really get deep inside of you.”
Moreover, Coke has bad news for the boycotters: If sweet-natured Christy isn’t American, then the boycotters sure as heck aren’t. That’s because Christy is a Native American. She sings “America The Beautiful” in her native Pueblo language of Keres. “Translating the lyrics ‘America the Beautiful’ was difficult because Keres is not a written language,” Christy explains in the behind-the-scenes video. “So we had to go back to our Elders to help translate.”
By pitting smiley American children against ugly, angry adults, Coke has flattened the boycotters’ arguments. The only limitation is that Coke’s videos of these little girls were released only on YouTube. To really win against the haters, Coke should consider airing an ad with snippets of these wise but adorable girls.
The haters need to wake up and smell the coffee. As a young American woman explains in a related Coke video, “We don’t get to pick and choose whether America should be diverse or not. It is diverse.”
And why is America so diverse? Why do people come here from every corner of the globe? As young Naomi, who sings in Spanish for the ad, says, people come here because in America, “we have the right to be ourselves. We can speak whatever we want. We can pray whatever we want to pray. And I just think that’s pretty amazing.”
That quintessentially American freedom of thought, speech and prayer have drawn generations to our shores for hundreds of years, starting with the Mayflower pilgrims. These also remain essential reasons America is the incubator of great ideas and innovations. Having the intellectual freedom to blow open entirely new ways of approaching problems and issues has always driven American success. Consider the invention of the car, the telephone, electricity, space exploration and scientific breakthroughs – the American approach is to carry the world to new heights.
American innovation also benefits from having the diversity of ideas and peoples that come from other shores. Many of America’s best minds in Silicon Valley, Ivy League universities or in research labs across the country are the minds of first-generation Americans, kids whose parents came here from other countries and who grabbed hold of American freedom of thought.
Back to the Olympics, where Coke is upping the ante: American innovation was on display – and rewarded – in the first medals awarded at Sochi. Sage Kotsenburg took home the first gold medal of the 2014 Olympics (in men’s slopestyle snowboarding) largely because he wowed the judges with a move nobody had ever tried before – a “backside 1620 with a Japan grab,” also called the Holy Crail. Indeed, it was a move Sage, himself, had never tried before (not even in practice). Sage exemplified the quintessentially American style of innovating in the moment. The same thing happened in the women’s freestyle ski moguls, where American Hannah Kearney took bronze despite a critical error in which one leg flew out to her side. Even so, she impressed the judges with a daring grab at her ski, tweaking it back. This led her to beat out the Japanese skier Aiko Uemura, who had a more technically perfect run, but who did not offer that American dazzle and innovation in the air.
innovation would not be possible without American diversity. And Coke is right
to celebrate it. My only advice to Coke: Put the ad’s singers up in an ad
talking about American diversity. Nothing deflates a boycott movement quicker
than adorable, American children.