Coca-Cola pulls 'Brutally Refreshing' Sprite ads deemed sexist

Coca-Cola has put a stop to a Sprite ad campaign in Ireland after consumers took to social media to charge the campaign as sexist and offensive. It's not the first advertising-related controversy the beverage company has faced in recent months. 

Mark Humphrey/AP/File
A worker delivers Coca Cola products in Nashville, Tenn. Coca Cola, parent company of Sprite, pulled some Sprite ads in Ireland after the ad campaign was deemed offensive by consumers.

A Sprite ad campaign in Ireland that promised to be #BrutallyRefreshing is proving to be #BrutallyOffensive for some consumers.

The ad campaign, targeting male soda drinkers, launched in March with the stated goal of “celebrating those with the guts to tell it like it is,” according to the company.  It was supposed to appeal to the “wisdom and wit” of the Irish because “the Irish believe nothing is funnier than the truth,” stated Georgina Kendrick, Sprite Brand Manager, during the launch of the campaign.

However, the ad campaign is being called insensitive by some and sexist by others.

The campaign, which Coca-Cola pulled this week in the wake of complaint on social media and elsewhere, features a series of slogans alluding to women being sexually permissive, or reducing them to their looks. “A 2 at 10 is a 10 at 2!” encourages one ad also displaying a bottle of Sprite and Sprite Zero.

Attention was brought to the ads earlier this week when Irish radio host Louise McSharry tweeted an image of a Sprite banner ad on the website and asked, “SERIOUSLY with this takeover in 2016?”

The “brutally refreshing” statements received a torrent of backlash on social media, with users calling the ads sexist and misogynistic. Some threatened to boycott the brand., a website which brands itself as the “the Voice of Irish Men at home and abroad,” quickly responded by removing the ads. Paddy McKenna, an editor at JOE, responded to McSharry’s tweet, saying that the ad campaign did not reflect JOE’s values and should never have been on the website.

Coca-Cola has since apologized for the ads. A spokeswoman for Coca Cola Ireland said in a statement, "We strive to deliver the highest standards of advertising, and we recognize that on this occasion the content did not meet our, or our consumers', expectations. The campaign has now ended and the advert will not appear again."

The “brutally refreshing” campaign isn’t the first time Coca-Cola has faced an ad controversy. In December, the company pulled an “Open Your Heart” holiday ad campaign in Mexico a week after its launch when complaints were made by consumers and advocacy campaign. The ad featured light-skinned young people bringing Coca-Cola products to indigenous peoples in Oaxaca, Mexico. Staff from the Alliance for Food Health in Mexico charged the ad as insulting to indigenous peoples.

A company statement from Coca-Cola after the ad was taken down said, “Our intention was never to be insensitive to or underestimate any indigenous group. We have now removed the video and apologize to anyone who may have been offended.”

Coca-Cola isn't the only company that has faced recent criticism for controversial ad campaigns. Earlier this week Gap apologized for any offense taken from a children’s clothing ad in Britain which showed a young boy as “The Little Scholar” and a girl portrayed as “The Social Butterfly,” which some say play into limiting stereotypes of girls.

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