Coca-Cola’s latest initiative in Dubai has everyone smiling. The immigrant workers who built an oasis in the desert, which include colossal structures like the Burj Khalifa, are the unsung heros of modern progress. Relegated to employer sponsored labor cities, a hard day’s work does not just mean hours of manual work to make architectural dreams reality, it also means a life of seclusion and segregation from friends and family back home. Life for these workers is very different from the lives they help make possible for others.
Coca-Cola is helping make things a little better for the thousands of workers who literally make Dubai possible:
As per Coca-Cola campaign manager, the 5 machines were placed for approx 10 hours from 21st March till 21st April 2014 in labor camps in Dubai. During this period they have logged ‘134,484 minutes’ that is roughly about 22,000 hours of calls. In addition, he said “The Hello Happiness initiative pays tribute to the hard work and efforts of these laborers and serves as a gesture of goodwill and appreciation” (from in-dubai.com)
The campaign has its limits of course. Detractors have rightly pointed out that these calls are not exactly free - it requires a purchase of a Coke. Some have voiced concerns about the health of effects of being encouraged to drink more Coke. These claims can all be debated extensively, of course. For example, a Coke costs Dh 2 while a typical one minute phone call costs roughly Dh 3.34. For a fraction of the cost, the Coke bottle cap gives customers 3x the talking time - so there is certainly some value created for consumers.
Speaking to The National newspaper, Iain Ackerman (editor of Campaign Middle East) raises other ethical concerns about this kind of marketing:
“I’m cynical about most advertising that is charitable in nature,” Mr Akerman said. “Most brands and agencies benefit more from such work than the recipients. And if it’s genuinely charitable, why the need to promote it?
“Any form of corporate social responsibility should not be about making the brand look good but about making a genuine difference to people’s lives.
“It would, however, be unfair to pick solely on this campaign as it is part of a much wider issue that relates to the relationship between advertising, brands and charities.”
Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/uae/technology/coca-colas-bottle-top-operated-phone-video-divides-opinion-in-the-uae#ixzz31th4kW47
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And of course, there is the lingering question of worker’s rights in general. As the video points out, these laborers make as little as $6/ day in a city renown for wealth and glamour - do these kinds of campaigns gloss over deeper injustices? This may be true to a degree, unless they are able to build awareness about the hardships faced by thousands who live amongst us in near total isolation. With more than 900,000 YouTube views, the video certainly has at least some (to put it mildly) people talking.