It’ll Take More than Just an Ad

January 18th, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on It’ll Take More than Just an Ad

Coca-Cola launched a new television commercial Monday night entitled “Coming Together”. The two-minute ad, which will be aired on national cable news shows, claims its low calorie, sugar-free beverages can be part of the obesity solution. Coca-Cola said in a news release that the goal was to “highlight some of the specifics behind the company’s ongoing commitment to deliver more beverage choices, including low- and no-calorie options, and to clearly communicate the calorie content of all its products.” One of Coca Cola’s major claims in the ad is “of over 650 beverages, we now offer 180 low- and no-calorie choices.”

Critics of sugary sodas responded quickly to the ad commenting that they believe the ad is merely damage control as we’re seeing more policy implementation against sugary drinks. New York City has banned large sugary beverages in a number of venues, with other cities like Washington, D.C. considering similar measures. With schools banning soft drinks and proposed higher taxes on sugary drinks, Coca-Cola is simply reacting to the ever increasing popular assault on sugary soda drinks, according to critics.

But here are the facts:

According to ABC News, the average American drinks 45 gallons of sugary soft drinks a year, equivalent to one-and-a-half barrels of soda pop. In fact, sugary sodas are the single largest source of calories in the American diet. Even the smallest can, the eight-ounce size, has the equivalent of approximately six sugar cubes. The 20-ounce size has around 14 sugar cubes and the 7-Eleven “Super Big Gulp” more than 30.

Nutrition experts argue that a key issue with soda drinks is that the calories they contain are empty of nutrition and don’t tell the body it is full. “With beverages, we’ll drink the calories and then consume more foods on top of those calories,” Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), told ABC News. “When the body eats a steak or asparagus, it senses that it consumed calories and then will reduce its caloric intake later in the day. It doesn’t happen with soft drinks.”

Merely creating an effective ad does not change the facts. If Coca-Cola truly wants to contribute seriously to our conversation on health and nutrition, they will need to do more than re-frame their message. They’ll need to completely overhaul their product line. Keep in mind, this strategy of airing a public relations campaign through commercials was used effectively by the tobacco companies once they saw the writing on the wall that law suits were heading their way. They suddenly became deeply concerned about teen smoking. It’s not unreasonable to believe that some of this is preemptive on Coca Cola’s part, for as the obesity issue continues to draw more attention and awareness, it would not be surprising to see lawsuits come forward against sugary soda makers. Stay tuned.