Coca-Cola Uses Ads to Address Soda/Obesity Debate 15 Jan 13

In response to ever growing concerns about the link between soft drink consumption and obesity, Coca-Cola has created a series of ads meant to bring awareness to the problem of obesity in general while emphasizing Coke’s history of providing low-calorie alternatives. The ads will also highlight the many ways people can enjoyably burn off a 140-calorie can of Coke. However, despite the Atlanta-based company’s efforts, detractors say Coke is merely performing “damage control.”

A new, decades long study, which determined sugary drinks are a cause of weight gain in people of all levels of health and physical fitness, has recently put the soft drink industry under extreme scrutiny. The study suggests that sugary beverages affect genes that control weight and increase a person’s risk of obesity beyond any predisposition from heredity alone.

Additionally, discussions of a nation-wide soda tax and New York City’s decision to put a cap on the size of soft drinks sold at restaurants, movie theaters, and sports arenas has helped spur the debate over sodas and their influence on public health.

Coca-Cola’s North American manager, Stuart Kronauge, said the company’s ads aren’t a reaction to any controversy but to simply raise awareness and be a part of the discussion.

“There’s an important conversation going on about obesity out there, and we want to be a part of the conversation,” Kronauge said.

John Sicher, the publisher of Beverage Digest, interpreted the ads in a slightly different manner when he said Coca-Cola is looking to position itself in the public debate rather than being defined by its adversaries.

Still, Michael Jacobson, the executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, was even more cynical and said if Coca-Cola was truly interest in public health it would quit fighting the proposed soda tax.

He said, “It looks like a page out of damage control. They’re trying to disarm the public.”

Regardless of the varied opinions, the commercials began airing Monday during top-rated shows on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. Viewers can expect to see ads discussing how it’s fine to drink the soda in moderation and especially when combined with an active lifestyle. One particular ad, which will air during American Idol and before the Super Bowl, shows viewers how pleasant activities like walking a dog, laughing with friends, and doing a victory dance can burn off “140 happy calories.”

The soft drink company said other measures are forthcoming, including possibly displaying on cans and bottles the amount of activity needed to burn off its associated calories. It will also continue the practice it started last year of posting calories information on vending machines.