A still image from the ad.
Coca-Cola held what it called a "productive conversation"
with an Arab-American group that labelled the firm's Super Bowl
ad racist, but will not change the commercial featuring an Arab
walking through a desert with a camel.
"We did express regret that the ad had been misunderstood,"
Coca-Cola spokeswoman Lauren Thompson said in an email. "We
are very concerned by these allegations and in no way is our
ad meant to be derogatory to any group."
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which
sharply criticised the commercial, said it was pleased with
the company's apology and explanation, and believed the issue
had been resolved.
On Wednesday, the group had said it would ask Coca-Cola to
change the spot before CBS airs the game this coming Sunday
(Monday NZT) in front of an expected audience of more than
100 million US viewers.
Thompson said Coca Cola had not changed the ad, which was
released online last week. It shows an Arab walking through a
desert pulling a camel, as cowboys, Las Vegas show girls and
a motley crew fashioned after the marauders of the
apocalyptic "Mad Max" film, race by him to reach a gigantic
bottle of Coke.
The ad asks viewers to vote online on which characters should
win the race. The online website does not allow a vote for
the Arab character.
The ADC and other groups cried foul over the image, and also
the fact that it was not possible to vote for the Arab
Warren David, president of the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Coca-Cola had been "very
"They ... said their intention was not to sustain the Arab
stereotype," he said. "We believe the issue is resolved and
are now comfortable that Coke was in no way trying to
demonize the Arab culture or race."
Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs for the
group, said it now had a better understanding of Coca-Cola's
campaign, although he expected the ad would still rankle
"I feel once the entire campaign comes through, then people
will understand our position," said Ayoub.
Coca-Cola said the vote would run as planned.
Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for
Interfaith Studies, said the ad was racist, "portraying Arabs
as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no
chance to win in the world."
The Coca-Cola spokeswoman said Coke had taken a "cinematic"
approach, employing the characters as a nod to movies of the
past. "Coca-Cola is an inclusive brand enjoyed by all
demographics," she said.
The 60-second video was the first commercial of Coca-Cola's
two-part Super Bowl advertising campaign. The spot will air
during the game, followed by a different one in the post-Game
telecast. Content for the campaign will also air online
across Tumblr, Twitter and many other platforms.
Coke will air two other unrelated Super Bowl commercials on
Sunday, including one during the game and another during the
pre-game portion of the telecast.
The ADC garnered attention back in 1992 when it complained
that lyrics in the Walt Disney animated film "Aladdin" were