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Watch: John Hillcoat's Controversial Super Bowl Coke Ad, Director Talks Backlash & Personal Reaction

The Playlist By Charlie Schmidlin | The Playlist February 13, 2014 at 10:24AM

The costly range of Super Bowl commercials run during the game have increasingly become the main event, with studios, brands, and corporations all prepping their finest displays with which to stand out from the crowd. This year was no exception—especially with such a shockingly poor quality of play out on the field—but it was Coke who stole headlines and raised the ire of many with their minute-long ad from John Hillcoat, and now the “Lawless” director has spoken up about the heated reaction.
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Super Bowl Coke Ad

The costly range of Super Bowl commercials run during the game have increasingly become the main event, with studios, brands, and corporations all prepping their finest displays with which to stand out from the crowd. This year was no exception—especially with such a shockingly poor quality of play out on the field—but it was Coke who stole headlines and raised the ire of many with their minute-long ad from John Hillcoat, and now the “Lawless” director has spoken up about the heated reaction.

Talking with Vanity Fair, Hillcoat responded to the heavy criticism thrown Coke’s way over their ad, saying that he “knew it would get some kind of reaction,” but underestimated just how extreme of one he would receive. To review, the spot—which you can watch below—layers “America The Beautiful” in several different languages over images of the country’s diverse racial and social populace, and also features the first same-sex couple in Super Bowl commercial history; after it aired, right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck spoke out heavily against it, while the hashtag #BoycottCoke quickly sprung up on Twitter.

“I’m an Australian. And I’m speaking generally here, but Australians in general aren’t patriotic or nationalistic,” Hillcoat explained. “Our country was built by immigrants. So, by my experience, I’ve seen the way immigration has transformed nations. They are the key people who quite literally build civilizations, be it culturally or musically. I don’t see any controversy here.”

He continued, “The song we used, ‘America the Beautiful,’ history tells us it was written by a woman, Katharine Bates, who lived with her female partner back in the day. That’s the reality of that song. I see mixed marriages and gay relationships as a positive thing to be acknowledged, and I wanted to push that a lot further. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t played down too much. I was worried that it was, but can see that it still filtered through [to viewers].”

Though Hillcoat claims he has “mixed feelings” in dealing with corporations and directing commercials, calling them “more troublesome than not”, he said his experience with Coke for the Super Bowl ad was quite supportive, having worked with the same creative team on a prior commercial for Levi’s.

A full 90-second version of Hillcoat’s Coke ad is set to run during the Sochi Olympics, but to hear more about the “Proposition” director’s feelings on his sadly controversial spot and the mixed blessing of social media, head over to Vanity Fair for the full piece.

This article is related to: John Hillcoat


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