Diversity & Media

Semiotics of Coca Cola’s Christmas

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In light of the recent backlash of Kendal Jenner’s Pepsi campaign, I wondered if other companies had created something similar in the past. Turns out Coca Cola had their share of ads that had good intentions but raised controversy instead. This Coca Cola ad featured a group of young white people traveling bright red planks of wood while drinking Coke to a rural indigenous town in Mexico, bearing the soda as gifts and building a Christmas tree for the locals. When the locals see them, the look with curiosity, smile, and join them, hoping to convey a message of unity and joy. Instead, it was criticized for reproducing reinforced stereotypes of indigenous people as being culturally and racially subordinate. Sandoval’s “5 methodologies of the oppressed” features 1.) Semiotics (the smallest units of meaning, or signs), and 2.) Mythology (the deconstruction of those signs). Here, the producers of the ad meant for it to be a statement of unity, but instead, the many saw it as forms of neocolonialism, racism and discrimination. Coca-Cola takes white privileged to sell their product to indigenous Mexicans, where at the end of the ad, it features everybody comes together, drinking their fizzy drinks and admiring the bright red Christmas tree that the white people built. The camera shows a close up shot on a Mexican boy, who’s eye’s gleam at the sight of a glowing Coke bottle cap, idolizing the glory of the American corporation. In this reading of semiotics, we see that the dominant ideological form of the “white savior” is how white people are trying to impose ideals of what should be celebrated onto the indigenous people. We see that they, too, embrace them and accept being ‘colonized’. It shows that yet again, dominant and powerful white companies and media exploiting the disenfranchised as corporate strategies of marketing.

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