Ogilvy Mexico and Coca Cola set out to make a cheerful christmas ad, as is the tradition around the world this time of year. The Coke story here featured hipster kids working on a project together, building something but we don't know quite what, and then transporting what they built to a town square somewhere. It's actually set in the Mixe town of Totontepec in the state of Oaxaca, and the kids have built a giant red Coke bottle/tree which lights up in red using Coca Cola plastic caps - the idea being intended to "convey a message of unity and joy”. Alas, when online activists saw it they read racism into it, saying the ad “reproduced and reinforced stereotypes of indigenous people as culturally and racially subordinate”.
Coca Cola pulled the holiday ad immediately and issued an apology, stating they "never sought to offend or underestimate" any indigenous group. "We deeply regret that the message has been misinterpreted when our intention was the exact opposite of the criticism received.”
Elvira Pablo, an indigenous lawyer, condemned the campaign during a press conference she held in Mexico City: "This type of publicity is an act of discrimination and racism." she explained as the bubbly soft drink is to blame for health problems: "Fifty years ago, cases of diabetes type 2 in our indigenous communities were rare. 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" "It is a comment on our type of life and an attempt to put a culture of consumerism in its place."
Telsur wrote a scathing editorial headlined "This New Coca-Cola Ad Shows Mexico's White Savior Problem."
In fact, for the Indigenous of Mexico, white people bringing Coca-Cola is not just a joyful Christmas ad, it is a reality of corporate and cultural domination and destruction.
“The video is a clear demonstration of the presence of transnationals in the Indigenous territories of Oaxaca. In the last years, these companies have increasingly been taking over natural, economic and now cultural resources from the communities,” Laura Melchor, a human rights advocate in Oaxaca, told teleSUR English.