Coca-Cola creates advertising disaster with ‘extremist’ campaign


Coca-Cola Pakistan has committed a huge mistake by using the term ‘extremist’ in its ICC World Cup 2019 campaign. After having suffered for decades due to the menace of extremism and fanaticism, the last thing we want to do is to come anywhere near this devilish concept.

Extremism and extremist are words that have no other connotation in the modern world than fanaticism, fundamentalism, terrorism, radicalism, militancy and dogmatism. It cannot be sublimated even if we attach good words like love, celebration, patriotism or even hope.

Coca-Cola creates world cup campaign based on the negative idea of extremism.

Since 9/11, even though we supported the war on terror, the world alleged Pakistan as a country having strong extremist elements. The narrative in Islamabad had been that Pakistan is a liberal and peace loving country and it has nothing to do with extremism and fanaticism of any kind. Civil society voiced this stance through different platforms that we are a forward looking nation that welcomes modern ideas.

One wonders how Pakistan’s best creative agency, Ogilvy and Mather, could make such a blunder. In advertising, the rule of thumb is, never talk about controversial ideas. Concepts, slogans and even words that have the potential to spark a political or religious debate can be severely harmful for the brand. What was Coke thinking when it approved this idea?

Coca-Cola is an iconic brand globally. Its creative campaigns in Pakistan are viewed by advertising experts and marketing gurus around the world and we are telling them that we are extremists. No matter what the intention of the brand, the campaign has got it all catastrophically wrong.

An extremist is somebody who is obsessed with an idea. Someone whose abilities to think, reason and analyze are taken away from him. That is the reason why it transforms a good thing into a negative and dangerous one.  

In the last few years things have moved in the right direction. Terror incidents are not as frequent as they used to be but still the country is not out of the woods yet. What Coca-Cola has done is unbelievable. It has refreshed a negative idea for all the wrong reasons. It can negatively impact the youth of Pakistan. Do we want them to say that they are ‘extremists’ no matter what the context is?

Coca-Cola is running the ‘Hum Aik Hain’ campaign on mainstream and digital platforms. Developed by Ahsan Rahim’s Tadpole Films, the mood and tempo of the communication are fine. The national song ‘Hum Aik Hain’ gives a good feeling but to cap it off the association with ‘extremism’ ruins it all.

Excess of everything is bad. Striking the balance is the principle of the universe without which the cosmos could not have been materialized. Going to extremes eventually leads to annihilation. You don’t have to be extremely Pakistani to be a good citizen. It is not important to be extremely hopeful when only hope can do.

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