Is Coca-Cola’s New Ad with Exploited Workers ‘The Real Thing’ or a Fake PR Stunt?

coke commercials

Sure, they look happy. It’s possible they don’t know they’re being used for PR brownie points.

When some global companies — from car manufacturers to retail developers — spend millions of dollars on advertising, there is always a “one-upsmanship” that exists in whiteboard and brainstorm meetings. Forget the wheel. They want to reinvent an entirely new mode of transportation with every new campaign.

Coca-Cola is known for that happy-happy-joy-joy advertising. From cutesy polar bears sucking down caffeine to legendary football players throwing their stank jersey at a child football fan, Coke has come up with iconic advertisements. Why they can’t be happy with that success is beyond me. Maybe that’s why I’m in the perception, earned media rather than pleasure, paid media.

Speaking of perception, there’s also this commercial where Coke is shown exploiting the plight of slave workers in Dubai. Yeah, this happened…

So there you are, watching a sporting event, grubbing on some mouth-watering BBQ (if that’s your thing), and then on the TV, comes this commercial showing poor people living in downtrodden conditions. Yeah, we have all seen those unfortunate PSAs — the sad faces, the dystopian surroundings, the upsetting situation, the people drinking Coca-Cola.

Wait, what?! 

So, are you ready for some football? No? I don’t think that’s the response Coca-Cola was awaiting. As a matter of fact, traditional and social media have been slightly pissed about this. Again, not the friendly consumer Coke is used to greeting.

Someone in ad central with Coke thought positioning American ingenuity would be a service for miserably south Asian workers. Only, not so much. You see, American consumers have grown quite the conscience and don’t take to nice to a multi-billion-dollar company that ostensibly portrays people who can’t afford a phone call buying Coke products — to afford a phone call.

I’m not a spokesperson for the UN or Amnesty International, but I do know those people work like the ancient Hebrews — excruciating long hours, no benefits except pay that equates pennies on the dollar, working hours from home (sometimes days) — all in hope to make life at home a tad more feasible. Of course, it never works out that way.

People die by the hundreds working this hard, but it appears as if Coke would like you to remember “teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony” when you watch this commercial.