Coca-Cola addresses obesity, defends itself in TV ad campaign

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Coca-Cola Co., the world’s top beverage company, has also been a perennial target for critics of sugary drinks. In a two-minute TV spot called “Coming Together” that debuted Monday night on cable news channels, the company addressed the “complex challenge of obesity” by showcasing its efforts to be transparent about the nutritional content of its products and to expand its line of drinks with low or no calories.

The soda industry is under siege, for good reason, and the ad tries to forestall sensible policy approaches to reducing sugary drink consumption (including ideas for increasing taxes and instituting bans) by pointing out that the company’s portfolio of more than 650 beverages includes more than 180 low or no calorie drinks. With most of the full-calorie drinks also having healthful versions.

But the culpability of beverage makers in the nation’s rising obesity rates has been an especially controversial issue in the last year. New York is poised to implement a ban approved last year by the city’s health board on large sugary drinks in a variety of venues and the city has inspired others, such as Washington, D.C., to consider similar measures. And as she prepares for her Feb. 3 Super Bowl halftime show performance, Beyonce faced blow-back from her multimillion-dollar endorsement deal with soda maker PepciCo and was urged by Health advocates to back out of it or donate the proceeds to health organizations. She has yet to respond.

Soda makers took some steps. Last October, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other soda makers agreed to start listing calorie counts for their beverages on vending machines, initially in select cities such as Chicago and San Antonio. And the Atlanta company’s ad noted that: (1) it has put calorie counts on the front of its cans, (2) it is working with scientists and nutritionists on zero-calorie natural sweeteners, (3) it has helped cut the average calorie-per-serving in U.S. beverages (smaller portions of its most popular drinks will be available in 90% of the country by year’s end), (4) by swapping out uber-sugary options from schools in favor of water, juices and body-conscious choices, Coke said that since 2004, it has helped reduce the calorie count 90% in drinks available in the schools it serves.

But Coca-Cola also stresses that obesity and keeping the U.S. healthy isn’t solely its responsibility: if one eats and drinks more calories than one burns off, one will gain weight.

On Wednesday, Coca-Cola will launch another obesity-related commercial during the popular reality show “American Idol.” In that ad, dubbed “Be OK,” the company will stress that burning off the 140 calories in a single can of Coca-Cola could be fun.

Credit photo: Paul Thomas, Bloomberg / December 17, 2012
Note: Click here for the video of the TV spot

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