A Super Bowl 2013 Coca-Cola commercial was described as racist by Arab-American groups. But is the new Coke ad racist or just plain dumb?
Whatever your opinion of the Coke ad in question, it's causing quite a controversy, and one Arab-American advocacy group asked the company to change the ad before Sunday's Super Bowl showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
The ad starts out with a sweating, turban-wearing man leading a team of camels across a sun-soaked desert. He sees a mirage of a classic green-glass Coca-Cola bottle on the horizon and closes his eyes in happy anticipation of the thirst-quenching soda.
But his moment is interrupted when a group of what appear to be cowboys appear over the dunes via horseback, followed soon after by a group of grungy tough guys on vehicles that look like they could be straight of the classic 1979 film "Mad Max."
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The turbaned man -- who was described by some Arab-American groups as a crude representation of tired, offensive Arab stereotypes -- cannot get his camel to budge an inch as the other two groups make their way toward the Coke bottle, only to come under attack from a bus full of what appear to be either Mardi Gras dancers or cheerleaders bedecked in pink sequins and feather hats.
The man in the turban is never seen again, but the other three groups battle it out en route to the shining Coke bottle. But when they finally reach it, they notice it is accompanied by a sign that reads "50 Miles Ahead."
And so begins the "Coke Chase," a marketing campaign by Coca-Cola that asks viewers to visit CokeChase.com in order to vote for the team they want to get to the Coke first. Critics of the ad say that the turbaned, or "Arab," man and his camels are further maligned as they aren't one of the choices of teams viewers can vote for.
“What message is Coke sending with this?” Ayoub asked. “By not including the Arab in the race, it is clear that the Arab is held to a different standard when compared to the other characters in the commercial.”
Ayoub went on to tell Reuters that he will contact both CBS -- the TV network that will broadcast the big game live to an estimated 100 million viewers -- and Coca-Cola before Sunday to “hopefully start a dialog ... I want to know why this happened and how can we fix this if possible before Sunday."
CBS declined to speak with Reuters about the ad, but Coca-Cola spokeswoman Lauren Thompson said the ad was intended to be "cinematic," and that the characters were selected in order to pay homage to classic movies:
“Coca-Cola is an inclusive brand enjoyed by all demographics,” she told Reuters via email. “We illustrate our core values, from fun and refreshment to happiness, inspiration and optimism, across all of our marketing communications.”
Still, some Arab-American groups are upset about the ad, as Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, told Reuters via e-mail.
“The Coke commercial for the Super [Bowl] is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world,” Siddiqui wrote.
As Sunday nears and the controversy grows, the best way for NFL fans, Arab-Americans -- and anyone else with an interest in the issue -- to decide if they find the commercial racist may be for them to watch it for themselves and make their own judgments. (Scroll to the end of this article to watch the "racist" Coke ad in full.)
Watch the Coke ad and draw your own conclusions about it by pressing play below: