When too many languages is not enough.
In this year of the XLVIII SUPER Bowl, America’s greatest pageant, now with far too many Roman numerals to count, two Sunday’s ago we celebrated the first “pot bowl” in the history of the National Football League, dude, as two awesome stoner-state rivals met to decide football fate in the Garden State. This was the high ceremony of America in all its consumerist majesty, Jersey-style traffic complimentary.
It’s been 10 years since Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. This year Coke grabbed the brass ring of Superbowl controversy for their version of “America the Beautiful, sung in seven different languages. This multilingual move triggered press reports of controversy:
CBS news reported, “Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad stirs controversy with a multilingual version of ‘America the Beautiful.’”
The Coke spot is familiar, happy non-traditional families, happy multiethnic faces. And full of multi-lingual voices singing that old American standard, “America the Beautiful.” Many found it jarring to hear this old patriotic classic sung in languages other than English. But Coke is beautiful.
Surely this was a consideration of those savvy salesman eager to extend their viral reach. The outcome and outrage was certainly predictable.
The response of a few on Facebook and YouTube was enough to advance the narrative for the press. Again from CBS:
The company’s official Facebook page was inundated with comments after the spot appeared during Super Bowl XLVIII. Though some showed support for the diversity shown in the ad, many others expressed displeasure.
“Today we are throwing away all our Coca-Cola products and replacing them with Faygo,” the Facebook page for the Tri-County Congregational Church in St. Cloud, Minn. wrote. “Faygo represents Christian Values and follows the Constitution. Mexicans singing the National Anthem is an abomination.”
Added Facebook user Jamey Mikels, “It is not bigotry to demand that we have a unified language in the UNITED STATES [sic]. If we do not have that we are no better than the 3rd world cesspool dwellers that refuse to lift THEMSELVES [sic] up. The language is what helps us to get along. Having multiple languages just keeps people separated into different communities rather becoming ONE [sic] great Nation [sic]! This commercial was put out to make self hating white people feel good!”
I had to go straight to Coke’s Facebook page (my first time) to check it out. The page was inundated with righteous indignation in favor of the ad, not against it. Gee, what a surprise to discover that Americans on Facebook find the idea of brotherhood from sea to shining sea really appealing. On YouTube, 14K like, and 3k don’t, a little negative, but what a nice controversy to boost branding. A great exercise in how to do well by doing good. I suppose I’m only encouraging them in my own minor way.
Slayer of straw-men, Jon Stewart was outraged, naturally. It all seems so tedious–jejune even. (finally after 40 years I’ve worked that word into a sentence. No wonder I need an editor.)
Maybe the real news is that no one really gives a damn, but then that wouldn’t be news. Is it a brand thing? Full disclosure: at 1-800-Translate, we’re Pepsi, not Coke.
In a way I feel as if I’ve been used. But that’s what the Internet is for Love to get some first impressions from people who heard the song this song last Sunday. Controversy or no? (Page visits without a comment will be counted as a “no.”)
…But wait…. there’s more. What about the languages that didn’t make it on to the Coke spot? What about the left-behind languages. Great parody dedicated to really lost languages here: