Coca-Cola removed can labels in the Middle East for reasons we don't totally get

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A number of Middle Eastern men chat in the dark and trying to describe each other based on their interests. A bespectacled, clean shaven man says he plays in a heavy metal band, and others predict he has piercings and long hair. Another man, with large tattoos on his face, says he reads a lot of books about cognitive psychology and behavioral science, and that he's given Ted talks. Others predict he looks "nerdy." Do you see where this is going?


Once the lights are on and everyone expresses shock over their confounded expectations, each participant reaches under his chair and pulls out a box containing two cans of Coca-Cola, sans the "Coca-Cola" label. Instead, emblazoned on each can, "Labels are for cans, not for people." This commercial, according to a statement emailed to Fusion by Coke, is the documentation of a "unique social experiment."

This is a new ad Coca-Cola Middle East uploaded to its YouTube channel this weekend, and it has a message:  Don't judge a book by it's cover. An oldie but a goodie.


The commercial is part of Coca-Cola's Middle East Ramadan campaign—the tagline on the commercial is "This Ramadan, see without labels."

Brands will be brands, and it's no surprise that Coca-Cola is using an appropriately saccharine concept to try to sell their product. Coke explained: "Through this campaign, Coca-Cola encourages the world to see without labels, but instead to open their hearts… Coca-Cola is removing its own iconic labels in an effort to promote a world without labels and prejudices."

A lofty endeavor, but we're not sure this ad is going to do the trick.

For one thing, this anti-label campaign seems like the polar opposite of its recent "Share A Coke" campaign, which is all about labeling: "Sis," "Explorer," "Nathan." In that case, labels were both for people and for cans, and the label you found on the can was supposed to correspond to the label you used on yourself. Slap a big ol' Coke drinker label on the lot of them and you've got blunter version of all these antics.


Also, the 'don't judge' theme might make more sense with the Ramadan peg in the U.S., where Islamophobia is happening. And, Ramadan is a fasting holiday, so consumption-based advertising seems pretty rude (to be fair, the meeting takes place during an iftar, or break fast.)

The only way this makes any sense to us is as a modern-day take on the iconic "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" commercial, which was resurfaced in all its cynical glory by the Mad Men series finale:


Forced diversity? Check. Moral superiority? Check. Globalizing efforts? Check. Catchy as hell? Not really. But we appreciate the deconstructed take on this attempt to humanize your soda brand.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.