US: Coca-Cola to address obesity for first time in ads

Coke obesity adCoca-Cola became one of the world’s most powerful brands by equating its soft drinks with happiness. Now it’s taking to the airwaves for the first time to address a growing cloud over the industry: obesity.

The Atlanta-based company this week has started airing a two-minute spot during the highest-rated shows on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in hopes of becoming a more influential voice in the intensifying debate over sodas and their impact on public health. The ad lays out Coca-Cola’s record of providing drinks with fewer calories over the years and notes that weight gain is the result of consuming too many calories of any kind — not just soda.

One of the ads, which will air during American Idol, uses Coke’s usual positive message, and features a montage of activities that add up to burning off the “140 happy calories” in a can of Coke: walking a dog, dancing, sharing a laugh with friends and doing a victory dance after bowling a strike.

Coca-Cola says the campaign will kick off a variety of moves that address obesity in the year ahead, such as providing more diet options at soda fountains. The company declined to say how much it was spending on the spots, which it started putting together last US summer.

The first ad, entitled “Coming Together,” which notes what the beverage industry has done to combat obesity over the last 15 years. What have they done? By offering more low- and no-calorie beverages, the average calories in products made by the beverage industry is down 22%. They also underscore work to make calorie labelling clearer, smaller soda sizes, and a voluntary program to replace sodas in schools with diet soda and fruit juices.

Wry comment from Fast Company’s editor, Morgan Glendaniel: “I imagine they’ll skip the best suggestion, which would be to “put down the Coke and drink a Dasani.” This would still make Coke money, while saving you the calories. Provided you could live with the guilt of buying bottled water.”

For Coca-Cola, the world’s No 1 beverage company, the ads reflect the mounting pressures on the broader industry. Later this year, New York City is set to put into effect a first-in-the-nation cap on the size of soft drinks sold at restaurants, movie theatres, sports arenas and other venues. The mayor of Cambridge, Mass, has already proposed a similar measure, saying she was inspired by New York’s move.

Coca-Cola said its ads aren’t a reaction to negative public sentiment. Instead, the idea was to raise awareness about what the company has done and the work it plans to do in coming months regarding obesity, said Stuart Kronauge, general manager of sparkling beverages for Coca-Cola North America. “There’s an important conversation going on about obesity out there, and we want to be a part of the conversation,” she said. Read the full article

You can watch the ad here …