Coca-Cola Suspends Controversial Campaign, Apologizes

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Jan 28, 2014
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  (Source:shareacoke.co.za via BuzzFeed)

Officials from Coca-Cola announced Tuesday that they have removed a social media campaign that came under fire this week for allowing users to personalize cans of Coke with text, but banned them from using the word "gay."

According to BuzzFeed, Coca-Cola removed its "Share A Coke" campaign website, which was running in South Africa. The company’s officials also apologized about its alleged homophobic methods in a statement to BuzzFeed.

"We are aware that the Share A Coke promotion we are running in South Africa has generated an unintended outcome. We apologise for any offense caused.

The Share a Coke program was created to allow consumers to take the iconic ’Coca-Cola’ script and replace it with their name on the can.

In South Africa, the digital version of the Share a Coke promotion did not properly limit the customisation to individuals’ names.

We’ve taken down the site and are in the process of revising the digital tool immediately.

As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate diversity. We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion, equality and diversity through both our policies and practices. Again we apologise for any offense this has caused."

Coke’s campaign made headlines Monday after it was reported that users who tried to personalize their virtual cans of soda were prohibited from using the word "gay" but were able to use the word "straight."

When entering "gay," an error message appeared that read, "Oops. Let’s pretend you didn’t just type that. Please try another name." The same message came up when users entered profanities and words like, "sex," "homo" and "dyke."

This campaign blunder comes off the heels of criticism of Coke’s sponsorship of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Last week, the company approved the detention and arrest of a gay rights activist in Russia. The Olympic security personnel arrested the non-violent protester while wearing shirts with the Coca-Cola logo. Coke officials also defended the arrest.

In December, Coca-Cola once again was criticized for alleged anti-gay activities when it removed images of a same-sex couple tying the knot during their "Reasons to Believe" campaign ads, which aired in Ireland, France and Denmark. A spokesperson for the company said they just wanted the ads to be "relevant and valid for its own market."

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