Coke Made Its Own Bubbly Ad About Saudi Arabia Lifting Its Ban on Women Driving

With no shortage of product placement

Headshot of Tim Nudd

It took a few weeks, but Coca-Cola has rolled out an upbeat commercial in Saudi Arabia, celebrating King Salman’s decree back in September that allows women to drive—finally ending the only ban on women drivers anywhere in the world.

The minute-long spot opens with a father and his daughter switching seats so that she is driving. And it soon becomes clear that he’s going to give her driving lessons.

It’s a lighthearted plot from there, centered around the woman’s struggle getting used the driver’s seat. Eventually, Dad has an idea—a goofy one, but one that allows a bottle of Coca-Cola to be front and center for the rest of the commercial.

Reaction in social media has been mixed, with some praising Coke for recognizing the milestone with a feel-good ad, and others complaining that Coke is exploiting women’s rights for commercial gain.

A few have even said—in a claim parroted by the New York Post—that the Coke spot is as bad as Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi fiasco. Which of course it isn’t. It’s merely a silly slice-of-life narrative in which Coke is incidental to the social issue, whereas Pepsi’s spot awkwardly cast the product itself as a change agent.

The tagline of the Coke spot is, “Change has a taste,” which ties into the brand’s current global tagline “Taste the feeling.” The ad is breaking just as even more momentous change is happening across Saudi Arabia.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.