Coca Cola featuring Tibetan monks ticks off Chinese ex-pat in Germany

Have you heard that old myth about the McDonald's burger makers? That there's a team of specialist burger makers who fly around the world to make the perfect burger, shake and fries for every local ad shoot ever. We could make a movie about them, make it like Top Gun where a kid with extreme burger flipping talent gets to join the ten bestest burger flippers in the world and fly to exotic locations to make exotic burgers like the Japanese Teriyaki burger and of course, the Royal with cheese. I'm not sure what's gonna kill Iceman yet, perhaps a freak fry accident.

Anyway, that myth isn't true. There is no special team that creates those fab looking burgers for every ad shoot - sorry to kill the hopes of any aspiring McDonalds college kids. I just went there because in the world of global communication and global brands, perhaps there should be.

Take the latest spat that Coke got itself into. Somewhere in Germany, some "point" snack shop was carrying an old Coke poster from 2003 which shows Buddhist monks on a rollercoaster with the slogan: "Make it real" in the window still - and right now with the current newly inflamed China/Tibet wound it's been misunderstood by a Chinese ex-pat living in Germany. A member of posted some photographs on the site and wrote:"Germany has started to really show adverts for Tibetan independence. Coca-Cola! Okay, I will remember. From now on I will not touch this shitty product! The three monks represent Tibetan lamas. They are riding a rollercoaster, which represents freedom. 'Make it real' means 'make this [ie freedom] real'". There are a couple of photographs of the offending old posters in situ here*. The Guardian reported "While one commenter suggested his interpretation was "far-fetched", many more leapt to his support, pledging to stop drinking Coca-Cola." Personally, I wish these people would stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

Coca Cola has issued a formal statement April 10 and sent it to the Global Times 《环球时报》

Recently, certain Chinese bloggers and forums carried a photo of a Coca-Cola advertisement. That advertisement was part of the 2003 series with the theme of "Make It Real" to promote sales in Germany. The theme was to encourage people to try new things and enjoy life. The series contains more than a dozen different advertisements featuring people from different walks of life enjoying themselves in different situations.

This advertisement did not contain any political or religious background and it is unrelated to Tibet independence. We regret that this old advertisement should become misunderstood by certain Chinese bloggers and forum users who were not aware of its background. We respect the feelings of Chinese consumers. This old advertisement at the Bremen train station has been taken down on the same day.

Coca-Cola is an apolitical organization, and one of the accommodating brands in the world. Coca-Cola provides services to consumers in more than 200 countries of different cultures, religions and histories. Coca-Cola and its local bottling partners will follow international business practice and not interfere or participate in any political or religious affairs in any country. We adhere to this position in every country around the world.

Coca-Cola began supporting and sponsoring the Olympics in 1928. For 80 years, we have continued to support the Olympic movement around the world. As a partner of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Olympic torch relay, we are actively participating in this global athletic competition.

All of this could be helped if global brands had a little global team that not only delivered the point of sale materials to shops, but also removed said materials after the campaigns run. Dressed as Ninjas! Oh yeah, that could be a great movie, if done like the Matrix where "glitches" are old campaigns still getting sunbleached in shop-windows. I'll have to admit, I love old campaigns hanging on through trends in remote store locations, like bleached out polaroids showing what was cool just ten years ago.


    * since I can't seem to track down who took those photos, I can't ask for permission to repost them here, so a link out will have to do.
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    Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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    purplesimon's picture

    Seems Coca-Cola are getting it in the neck from all sides - Brand Republic reports that shareholders rebelled in a recent AGM regarding sponsorship of the Olympics. More here.

    Dabitch's picture

    NEW YORK - Shareholders attacked Coca-Cola's sponsorship of the Olympics at its annual meeting yesterday while Free Tibet protesters called for the company to use its power to improve human rights in China.

    Two of the shareholders demanded that Coke tell the International Olympic Committee to change the route so that it will not pass through Tibet because it would cause loss of life.

    Wow, that's really interesting.