Coca-Cola to air U.S. commercials addressing obesity

Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:09pm EST

A Coca-Cola logo on a truck at a distribution center in Alexandria, Virginia October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A Coca-Cola logo on a truck at a distribution center in Alexandria, Virginia October 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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(Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co will air a two-minute commercial on U.S. cable television on Monday that highlights its efforts in fighting obesity, as the soft drink industry faces increasing pressure from local governments and critics.

The commercial mentions how Coca-Cola sells about 180 low- and no-calorie drinks, works to produce better-tasting low-calorie sweeteners and has introduced smaller can sizes.

It also reminds viewers that "all calories count no matter where they come from" and that "if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight."

This is not the first time Coca-Cola has used advertising to address this issue, but it is a first for television. The move comes as New York City prepares for an upcoming ban on the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces (0.5 liter) in places like restaurants, movie theaters and stadiums. In November, voters in two California cities rejected ballot measures for soda taxes.

The commercial will air on Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," FOX News' "The O'Reilly Factor," and MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show." It will air on Tuesday during other shows as well.

"The audience for this new ad ... is knowledgeable about the problem but doesn't necessarily know about what the Coca-Cola Co is doing to address it," said Coke spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante. "We are telling them our story."

Another commercial, which talks about Coke's front-of-package calorie labels, will debut on Wednesday during the popular "American Idol" television show on Fox, which has partnered with Coke, the world's largest soft drink maker, for some time.

Ciarlante said the commercials were not in response to any increased pressure but Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and an outspoken critic of the industry, said the move seems like "a full-blown exercise in damage control."

"They're trying to pretend they're part of the solution instead of part of the problem," Jacobson said. If Coke was serious about wanting to be part of the solution, Jacobson said, it could stop advertising full-calorie drinks altogether, set up a pricing scheme where full-calorie drinks were more expensive, or stop opposing proposed soda taxes.

In response Coca-Cola's Stuart Kronauge, general manager of sparkling beverages for North America, said the obesity problem can only be solved with "honest and collective action."

"This includes action by business, government, teachers, scientists, health professionals, parents, and of course companies like the Coca-Cola Co," Kronauge said in a statement. "We have an important role in this fight which can only be won if everyone works together."

Coca-Cola, which is also a big sponsor of the Olympics and other sporting events, spent about $610 million on advertising in 2011, according to Brad Adgate at Horizon Media Inc, citing figures from Advertising Age.

American Idol is one of the costliest TV shows for advertisers, according to the latest annual survey by Advertising Age. The survey, released in October, found that the average cost of a 30-second spot on Wednesday's edition of the show was $340,825.

(Reporting By Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Marguerita Choy)

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Comments (6)
jsmack007 wrote:
I am sick and tired of reading articles like this where the writer infers that a company or government entity should be doing more to prevent something that is (ultimately) up to the individual to change. When do we, as a culture, start taking personal responsibility for our decisions instead of always looking for a way to blame everything and everyone else? It is not the Coca-Cola company’s fault that there is increasing rates of obesity in this country. It is the fault of the individual for not knowing when to say no or enough-is-enough and, in the case of children, the parents’ responsibility for not taking an active role in monitoring their child’s diet, educating their children on what is good or bad, or worse, being enablers to bad eating/drinking habits.

When you go to the store, don’t buy soft drinks if you know they have calories. When you kid asks for a soft drink, give them water instead. And for heaven’s sake, teach your kids how to go outside and get some exercise and maybe you should be going with them and practicing what you preach.

The solution to the problem is not to look for blame in others. The solution is to look within oneself.

Jan 14, 2013 4:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Kcoop wrote:
The problem is,our decisions and choices are tremendously influenced by messages we receive from our environment about what’s normal and expected, what makes us attractive,what will make us feel good or happy, what’s necessary for a good life, on and on..Companies like Coca Cola understand this is true which is why they spend so much money on advertising. It would be great if everyone automatically made choices that were in their best interest or in the best interest of those around them but its not that simple. More often we do what feels good, right now, and is most convenient. I’ll worry about the conseuqnces later. YOLO. Wide spread public health changes require changing the environment. If obesity didn’t didn’t cause so much expense in the health care system for the rest of us maybe we wouldn’t need to make these changes but we can’t rely on personal responsiblity to make this change. People are too easily influence by things that they think will feel better or be easier than personal responsiblity. Maybe that’s sad but its true.

Jan 14, 2013 5:40pm EST  --  Report as abuse
shellbank wrote:
Oh please, people don’t eat at home anymore, and even if they don’t eat at a fast food restaurant and go have a sit down meal somewhere the plates are the size of serving platters. Eliminating the soda might take off a couple of calories but the plate alone usually consists of a thousand or more calories. Is the government going to determine the size of plates used in restaurants? While we are at it is the government going to crack down on fashion magazines for promoting unhealthy ematiated looking models as the standard for beauty for our young girls? Should airbrushing be disallowed because it creates a false image on the covers of magazines and makes young women try to achieive weights that are unhealthy to be beautiful? What a bunch of BS and these same people want to make marijuana legal even though smoking it can cause cancer just like cigarette. It’s ok to have movies like “A Bullet to the Head” promoting violence but law abiding gun owners are somehow punishable for the behavior of criminals. It’s ok to make video games like “Grand Theft Auto” and “Fast and Furious” that promotes speeding, theft, and violence. It’s ok for Hollywood to have movies where smoking cigarettes is acceptable because it’s part of the creative process. I’m sick of the government sticking their noses into everybody’s business but picking and choosing their friends and businesses based on politics. Bloomberg vs the Coke brothers comes to mind. If it really is a national health problem and our insurance rates are going up, then force those who indulge in some form of self abuse to pay more if it impacts their health. Otherwise stay out of it. It’s called personal accountability or responsibility. This is all political hypocricy and we have become an “Idiocracy”!

Jan 15, 2013 7:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
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