Coca-Cola: Apology Issued After Company Receives Tremendous Backlash For Airing Insensitive ‘Indigenous People Ad’

Coca-Cola’s apology for an “insensitive” ad — in which the company showed a group of mostly young, white people visiting Mexico’s indigenous people to bring them soda — came after they received tremendous backlash from Mexican citizens, media outlets as well as several advocacy groups. Coca-Cola, which is a global leader in the beverage industry, was forced to pull the ad and issued an apology via a statement.

“Our intention was never to be insensitive to or underestimate any indigenous group,” the statement read. “We have now removed the video and apologize to anyone who may have been offended.”

As reported by Fox News, the ad, which was a part of Coke’s “Open Your Heart” campaign, was heavily criticized for white hipster-like people building a Coca-Cola tree for the underprivileged villagers and delivering them coolers filled with soda.

After receiving numerous criticisms from the Mexican community and indigenous groups that defend the rights of consumers, the company decided to withdraw the ad. Specifically, the Alliance for Food Health, an organization that brings together various organizations focused on the epidemic of obesity in Mexico, were especially offended by the video and the group demanded that the government ban the advertisement. They have succeeded.

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According to Takepart, the Alliance for Food Health has now filed an official complaint with the National Council to Prevent Discrimination. Coca-Cola Mexico spokesman Diego Bracamontes apologized over the weekend in a radio interview and said they decided to pull the ad because of the controversy.

“We regret that the message was misinterpreted,” he said during an interview. “The intention of this video was to give a message of unity, we never tried to offend or underestimate anyone.”

According to the Alliance for Food Health, the ad attacks the dignity of indigenous peoples and contributes to the deterioration of the country’s health. Mexico has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world. This problem is especially bad in the indigenous communities of the country, which is why the organization believes that the ad would only contribute to the problem and assist in driving up obesity numbers.

The commercial begins by saying, “81.6 [percent] of indigenous people have felt rejected for speaking another language,” and it calls on Mexicans to “overcome that prejudice.”

Elvira Constantina Pablo, a lawyer from Aser-Litigio, a group that provides legal services to indigenous people, denounced the ad, calling it “racist and discriminatory.”

“It feeds stereotypes by projecting an image of dependency,” Pablo said. “The indigenous people say nothing; they only let the white person who offers them help hug them. “It promotes an attitude from which we indigenous people suffer on a daily basis,” she continued. “People look at you in a strange way for dressing in traditional clothes and when you go into a mall, they keep watching you because they think you’ve come to steal.”

In response to Coca-Cola’s “ingenious people ad,” the Alliance for Food Health created its own video, which features Mixe people speaking about the soda industry’s influence on their community.

“Fifty years ago, cases of diabetes type 2 in our indigenous communities were rare,” a voice can be heard saying in the video. “Now they begin to be an epidemic. In order to remain united, we must preserve our dignity, our health, and our culture. In Oaxaca, we drink tejare, tea and clean water.”

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[Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images Entertainment]