The soft drink giant has adorned plastic robot figurines with swastikas
On April 30th, 2003, Oleh Leah Synagogue Rabbi Yakkov Kermaier told AP that the Robowaru robot that Coca-Cola used in its promotional advertising carries the symbol that represents the destruction of six million Jews. (As a matter of fact, Robowaru is not a robot, but a small plastic figurine that stands on a "pedestal" which has the Coca-Cola symbol.) There are two swastikas on the front side of the robot.
The organizers of the promotional action, which takes place in Hong Kong only, decided to give away a Robowaru to any customer who purchases six bottles of Coke. It is also possible to buy the toy alone for $3.60.
The rabbi pointed out that such a reminder of the Nazi’s murderous acts most likely appeared as a result of a mistake. The rabbi also added that the swastika could be interpreted as a Buddhist symbol that is widely recognized in Asia. Nevertheless, the rabbi demanded the toys be withdrawn from sales and give-aways.
Coca-Cola spokeswoman Elsie Tsui said that the robots were designed on the basis of an original project. Jennifer Chan from the Chinese company Animation International, which owns the copyright both for Robowaru and the whole Robocon set in the region, claimed that the toy had nothing to do with either any organization or any religion.
The final result of the scandal is that news sites started publishing headlines like "Coca-Cola Promotes Drink with 'Swastika' Robots," "Coke Yanks 'Nazi' Robot Toys," "Coke Pulls Its 'NAZI' Toy Robot," and the like. Well, this is a pretty strong combination - "always Coca-Cola," Nazis and robots.
Another spokeswoman for the soft drink giant, Kelly Brooks, stated that the company was sorry about the mistake, so it was decided to pull the scandalous robot figurine.
Well, it is really hard to understand who needs to have their heads examined - a designer who put swastikas on the toys, or the company, which did not notice it. Or was it thelocal Jewish leader, who, suffering from swastikaphobia, was unable to distinguish between Nazi and Buddhist symbols?
Robocon, a series of robot toys, appeared back in 1974 as a Japanese television series like the Teletubbies. The company was renewed at the end of the 1990s, although it preserved its image. The set of Robocon toys includes a girl Robin, a crazy scientist Robogaki, a carpenter's hardworking mate, a good thief Robodoro, a cook Robomugu and other robots of various designs and characteristics. Robowaru originally meant to be a "bad guy"; he always thinks of doing something bad. This is a question to put to the designer - was the robot adorned with the two swastikas in order to portray its negative aspects?
There is no point in writing about the swastika in order to explain its ancient origin. However, in 1925, Coca-Cola produced a swastika-shaped watch fob made of brass. The front side of the watch fob said: "Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles – 5 cents." As you can see, Robowaru is not the first such experience with Coca-Cola. However, the watch fob was produced in the 1920s.
Speaking about the accusation from the aforementioned Hong Kong rabbi: The Nazi swastika is a swastika that faces clockwise, aiming its axes to the right. This is exactly the symbol that was placed on the German banner during 1933-1945. Nazis used to call this symbol the "Hakenkreuz." Some reference books explain the difference between the Hakenkreuz (the Nazi swastika) and traditional kinds of swastikas in Asia and in America that are face counter-clockwise.
The two swastikas that can be seen on Robowaru robot are a classic example of a Hakenkreuz; they are not a symbol of Buddhism. Thus, some reporters are not right when they say that there are "swastika-like symbols" or "two reversed symbols of the notorious Nazi Party" on the robot.
At the end of the day, media outlets are not important in this story. We have the soft drink giant Coca-Cola, which has produced a toy robot adorned with the Nazi symbol. Was it really a mistake? What can McDonald's offer, for instance?
On the photo: Coca-Cola watch fob