Jan 14 (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co will air a two-minute commercial on a U.S. cable television news show on Monday that highlights its efforts in fighting obesity, as the soft drink industry faces increasing pressure from local governments and critics.
The commercial, which will air on CNN during The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, 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".
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.
This is not the first time Coca-Cola has addressed the issue with advertising, but the prime-time TV commercials seem like "a full-blown exercise in damage control," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and an outspoken critic of the industry.
"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.
Coke's commercials come as New York City prepares for an upcoming ban on the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in places like restaurants, movie theaters and stadiums. In November, voters in two California cities rejected ballot measures for soda taxes.
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.