For the first time in its history, the Coca Cola company is discussing its role in the obesity epidemic directly with consumers. This, in a 120 second long TV commercial “Come Together” which began airing last night. You can see the video is below. In the ad, Coke shows viewers how it is part of the solution to the obesity epidemic, not one of the root causes.
Here are some initial thoughts we’ve put together, after viewing this commercial several times:
1. This is probably the first time a full 2 minutes of prime time TV have been utilized to discuss obesity with the public. We think this is an important discussion to have. In prime time.
But did it really have to be Coca Cola sponsoring the discussion? You know the answer. What public health advocacy group has a budget that would allow it such a huge media spend? Or government body?
2. Coca Cola is presenting itself as part of the solution by indicating that in the past 15 years it has reduced the average calories per serving across its US product line by about 22%. Let’s analyze this stat. Coke isn’t saying that the average calories consumed from its products have dropped by 22%. (That would be awesome.)
Unfortunately, calories from sugary drinks are the number 1 source of calories in the American diet today. The stat simply means Coke has added lots of artificially sweetened products (an can of worms in itself, for another blog post) and waters to its portfolio, which, when averaged with the regular products makes it seem like a huge reduction.
But the low calorie products account for a small percentage of sales compared to the fully loaded sugary drinks. In fact, the video equivalent of subtext throughout the ad shows mostly beautiful people drinking mostly the iconic Coke full sugar drink. Not the low calorie portfolio.
3. Coke claims it voluntarily removed sugary drinks from schools and replaced them with water and juices. Technically Coke maybe right, but it only made these changes to preempt strict regulations on state and federal levels.
4. Coca Cola shows how it is part of the solution by co-opting the exercise and “calories-in / calories out” message. It’s a sad day when nutrition and health messages are being brought to the public by the company with the biggest share of the responsibility pie for America’s obesity epidemic.
5. Despite all these shortcomings, this campaign by Coke is important. The company’s executives are not blind to the damage sugary soft drinks are doing to our health. But they have a fiduciary duty to the company shareholders. Their success (and annual bonus) are not measured by how healthy America is, but by how many more dollars of profit Coke brings in from selling product.
But the fact that Coca Cola is launching such an effort to educate the public means that it foresees troubled waters ahead for its business of selling sugar water. Which means that the hard work of individuals, public health groups, bloggers, and others to get folks unhooked from soda pop might finally be paying off.
Have you seen the new Coca Cola Obesity Commercial?
What are your thoughts?