Coca-Cola has apologised for its “Share a Coke” online campaign’s ban on the word “gay,” an issue it says was limited to South Africa.
The campaign’s website allowed members of the public to type a name or word onto a virtual coke can and share it on social media.
However, when one tried to enter “gay,” a message appeared that read: “Oops. Let’s pretend you didn’t just type that. Please try another name.”
The site did accept the words “heterosexual” and “straight,” suggesting that “gay” was included its list of undesirable or obscene words.
On Tuesday, as the issue became more widely known, the Share a Coke function was disabled.
A Coca-Cola spokesperson also apologised for the gaffe: “We are aware that the Share A Coke promotion we are running in South Africa has generated an unintended outcome. We apologise for any offence 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,” the spokesperson said.
The company’s apology did not, however, address the real issue at hand: why the word “gay” was seen as undesirable in the first place.
Coca-Cola had already been under fire from LGBT and human rights activists for its refusal to condemn Russia’s anti-gay laws, despite being a sponsor of the country’s upcoming Winter Olympics. The latest misstep has only added to the company’s PR nightmare, which is likely to escalate as the Sochi games approach.