A slot during the half-time intermission of the US Superbowl is some of the most expensive advertising real estate you can find. Coca Cola, one of, if not the most recognised global American brands stirred up a lot of discussion and, regrettably, vitriol for its multilingual advert.
The advert, above, showed a diverse array of American faces – white, black, Christian, Muslim, old, young – singing “America the Beautiful” in several languages, including English, Spanish and Arabic.
Immediately after being broadcast, a number of viewers expressed their anger on Twitter, describing the adverts as unpatriotic. Many even resorted to hate-speech and xenophobia.
Let’s be clear: what the advert depicted was not, as some expressed, “terrorists” singing a pro-American song, but rather the multicultural makeup of the United States, a country that is itself the product of immigration and has no official language. Of course English is widely spoken but constitutionally, it is not the official language.
What Time magazine has described as the “English or GTFO” sentiment is morally redundant. Most immigrants that arrive in the US do learn the language and become naturalised. Should we insist on the requisite of distancing from one’s heritage? Of course not. A country and its people should strive to be linguistically and culturally rich.
Diversity is more prevalent in society than ever before, something that Coca Cola, being the big-ticket, global brand, has recognised and is trying to capitalise on. (Let’s not forget, while warming hearts, they’re also trying to sell products and they have millions riding on it.)
On one hand, we saw the world’s leading soft drinks manufacturer produce a heart-warming and welcoming piece of publicity aimed at uniting many cultures that are the very fabric of the US. On the other, we witnessed the views of those who favour division.
Let’s remember, successful societies are built on unity and respect.