In an effort to soften its reputation as being one of the main causes of the childhood obesity epidemic, this week Coca-Cola released a new series of ads directly addressing the issue. It is the first time the company has used ads to comment on its side of the story about the link between obesity rates and sugary drinks.
The two-minute commercial will air during the highest-rated shows on MSNBC, Fox News and CNN. Another 30-second spot will air during “American Idol” and right before the Super Bowl, and features ways for Americans to burn off the calories found in a can of Coke.
The ad features a montage of happy people drinking Coke and doing everyday activities. It begins, “For over 125 years, we’ve been bringing people together. Today we’d like people to come together on something that concerns all of us – obesity,” the soft spoken narrator says.
But does the company who told us to “open an ice cold Coca-Cola and choose happiness” really have the public’s best interest in mind with these new advertisements?
Coca-Cola says that it wanted to run the ads in order to tell its story, not as a reaction to negative public sentiment about sugary drinks. However, it looks an awful lot like the soft drink giant is looking for some positive PR in the wake of study upon study proclaiming there is a direct correlation between sugary drinks and obesity as well as a host of other health problems. If Coke doesn’t become active in telling their story about what causes obesity now, perhaps they know that soon they’ll be struggling to stay afloat.
Recent legislation surely has something to do with the beverage company’s decision to begin an aggressive ad campaign. New York City’s ban on the sale of sodas larger than sixteen ounces was a bold step, one that the soft drink industry vigorously campaigned against. Other policy approaches like beverage taxes may soon follow.
The Coca-Cola commercial proclaims, “Beating obesity will take action by all of us based on one simple, common sense fact: all calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories. And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you’ll gain weight.”
This is true, to an extent. But the other side of the equation is that if a person gets their daily recommended calories exclusively or even mostly from sugary beverages, their weight will skyrocket. Not all calories are created equal. One must factor in nutrition when considering calories, and soft drinks contain very few vitamins and an overdose of sugar. And marketing to children certainly makes obesity rates go up as they learn to reach for a soda instead of water or juice.
Another ad campaign that went viral late in 2012 shares what Coca-Cola doesn’t:
- The largest source of calories in our diet come from sugary drinks
- A child’s risk of diabetes goes up sixty percent with each extra soda per day
- One or two soft drinks per day increases anyone’s risk of diabetes by twenty five percent
Called “The Real Bears,” the video released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest is a satire on Coca-Cola’s polar bear ads. In the CSPI’s version, a polar bear family suffers from diabetes, erectile dysfunction, rotting teeth, and other health problems as a result of their reliance on Coke, all the while being bombarded with messages about how Coke brings happiness.
Two very different ads telling completely different stories – which one do you believe?