Coca Cola India demand "unconditional apology" from photographer

Oy vey, did they send Coke PR people to the charm-school of Lizzie Grubman or what? First some fool in Denmark tells a site not to link to coke, and now Coke India are threatening to slap a defamation suit for Rs. 2 Million on a photographer simply because one of his photographs doesn't appeal to Coke.

Bad move, brown sugar water. In India coke already has it's problems with goodwill, especially in the south where the Plachimada Coke-botteling facility was shut down after intense community pressure, but has now been re-opened after the the Kerala High Court now has permitted Coca-Cola to extract up to 500,000 liters of water from the common groundwater resource per day. See "Let Them Drink Coke" at IPnews and google newsclusters about it, or head straight to India Resource for more Coke India news. Apparantly it takes seven times as much water to create one bottle of Coke, a process that can't bode well for areas that already lack, and thus need, water.

So when Sharad Haksar took a quite poetic photograph of colorful pitchers lining up in front of a waterpump, which just happens to be situated near a wall that has a "Drink Coca Cola" ad painted all over it, and to top it all off displayed his art on a billboard, coke wasn't happy at all. The gall of this artist! Coke claims this billboard has done 'incalcuable damage' to their brand and want it withdrawn immediately, they also want "unconditional apology".

An Indian adgrunt who was involved in the process of creating this art-on a billboard says:

The billboard was put in the city of Chennai in south india. Chennai has a huge water problem during summer. We thought we will tell an ironic story by contrasting this with the ubiquitous coke wall painting. Somehow the irony has rubbed coke the wrong way, and now they are up in arms.

They even showed the photograph to senior Coke managers before the release of the billboard. In a case of the left hand doesn't know what the right one does, these managers simply smiled and raised no objections.

Related bad PR for Coke, Indian farmers spray their fields with Coke, as it contains traces of pesticides.

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Comments (5)

  • AnonymousCoward's picture
    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    i'd be more concerned about the pesticide and polluting claims. Especially since I'd imagine that laws against that kind of thing are pretty non existent.

    Jan 18, 2006
  • Plywood's picture

    If the people of Chennai organized themselves and started a grassroots boycott of Coke that spread around the country, they could easily force the plant to close. Or at least operate at a staggering loss. And Coke could easily figght all this bad press by taking some simple action to help maintain the water supply. Is Chennai a coastal town or inland? Coke could dig wells, co-op build a desalinization plant, etc etc. and turn this PR nightmare into an actual win for them and win for the people of Chennai. But of course, they won't, because they're jackass corporate pigs.

    Jul 11, 2005
  • James_Trickery's picture

    Minor nitpick, digging more wells doesn't magically make more groundwater appear. Massive amounts of rain does.

    But to be fair, Coke's point of view should be heard as well. Here is what they say "We believe the allegations are motivated more by an anti-globalisation agenda, rather than by those with genuine environmental concerns. Any fact-based discussion of this issue would reveal that there is no basis for the allegations."

    Jul 12, 2005
  • AnonymousCoward's picture
    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    Isn't there a drought in India now? I'm sure that has a lot more to do with the groundwater problem than the consumption of one bottling plant.

    Jul 21, 2005