Coca-Cola Localization Decision Leaves Gay Couple out of Irish Ad Sparking Online Criticism

Coca-Cola Localization Decision Leaves Gay Couple out of Irish Ad Sparking Online Criticism

The omission of a same sex marriage scene in the Irish version of the latest Coca-Cola advertisement has caused quite a lot of criticism for the brand. However, Coca-Cola claims the decision was made on grounds of localization.


In most European countries, Coca-Cola’s “Be Inspired” advertisement features a scene in which two gay men are getting married.

However, the brand decided to leave out this scene in the Irish version of their ad. This cased quite an outrage on Twitter leading to a backlash over the decision.

Coca-Cola stated that the omission of the scene was nothing more than localization.

A Cola-Cola spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that as gay marriage isn’t legal in Ireland, it made no sense to maintain the scene for this country.

Liva Judic, who wrote about the incident online, believes this decision deserves a closer look. She says that the word ‘localization’ has taken quite the flight in 2013.. And even though she agrees that companies should alter their marketing to fit specific markets, she also feels the content that deserves to be adapted must be chosen very carefully.

Judic says it is not very surprising Coca-Cola chose to incorporate same-sex marriage in their ad as a lot of countries legalised same-sex marriages last year. However, brand strategist and CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, Shelly Kramer believes the “Be Inspired” campaign could mean Coca-Cola is ‘shooting itself in the foot.’ She wonders if the marketing people over at the brand have discussed the nuances of the topic before the campaign was actually created.

Coca-Cola shot itself in the foot again, Judic claims, with its response to the criticism about the campaign. After all, gay marriage is also illegal in the UK, where an uncut version of the advertisement was released. Moreover, according to Eile.ie, the scene was shot in Australia – another country where it is illegal for two men or women to get married. Thus, Judic says, if the status of same sex was the problem, Ireland could have run the ad without any problem.

On Twitter, Coca-Cola has not responded to the comments at all. In fact, the company simply focussed on their ‘Open happiness’ campaign that was launched for the holidays, Judic says. The brand’s Facebook page and Google+ profile are no different. Kramer believes that if you look at the controversy from a brand and PR standpoint, the “Be Inspired” campaign almost seems to be asking for criticism from the LGBT community. She is unsure whether omitting the scene was really worth the controversy and asks herself whether the problem could have been solved in another manner: ‘perhaps a different creative route might have produced less controversial reviews and more brand affinity.’

Judic believes marketers can take away three things from this whole ordeal:

•    You cannot use localization as an excuse for every decision you make
•    Social media should be used for engagement instead of broadcasting
•    PR departments must be able to create good and credible stories

However, she says, Coca-Cola might have created the stir on purpose.

This wouldn’t be the first time, as they also launched a marketing stunt during the Haiyan typhoon in the Phillipines in which they donated 2.5 million US dollars to the relief efforts. Maybe, Judic says, there will be a follow-up to the controversial ad that will explain everything. She actually believe this is quite unlikely, but you never know!

Emma Tidey
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