“That Coca-Cola has even ventured into the obesity debate is in some ways startling" … Michelle Bridges. Photo: Ellis Parrinder
When I first saw Coca-Cola's "Come Together" anti-obesity TV ad campaign, now showing in the US, I made a quiet promise to myself that I wouldn't say anything about it. Not write about it, complain about it, tweet about it or discuss it. But I can't. It's killing me. Of course, on the face of it those nice Coke folk are genuinely concerned about the welfare of its imbibers. But here are a few reasons why I think they genuinely aren't.
First, the world's most successful brand custodians have gone back to Damage Control 101 to address deteriorating sales in the US. And that is to muddle up public opinion on the issue. A quick flick through the online forums and chat rooms suggests that it's mission accomplished.
This is a well-used tactic, much like the alcohol industry's "drink responsibly" gesture in its ads, which, translated, basically means, "We want you to think that we care about alcohol abuse because that will make you feel better about buying our products. So you'll buy more."
They are telling us that they actually do care about obesity (to which their significant contribution is common knowledge, so I won't offer any supporting figures here) by offering 180 low- and no-kilojoule drinks in its range. Unfortunately, the other 470 high-kilojoule, high-sugar offerings in its global range are still out there. But let's not dwell on that.
Then the ad hits us with the "all calories count" line, inferring that all calories/kilojoules are the same, whether from a chicken salad or a can of Coke. Which simply isn't true. Our bodies metabolise kilojoules from different foods in different ways. A gram of protein is metabolised differently to a gram of sugar. Given that there's virtually no nutritional value in Coke, Diet or otherwise, the "all calories count" statement looks just a bit misleading.
That Coca-Cola has even ventured into the obesity debate is in some ways startling, but by taking the initiative they have once again demonstrated that when it comes to flogging their gear, nobody does it better. The "coming together" tag line, the smiling happy international faces, the noticeable absence of a proportionate number of overweight people ... oh yeah, these guys know their stuff.
Will it work? Yep. But it marks the beginning of a change in the obesity debate in much the same way as the advent of low-tar ciggies hinted that the tobacco industry had begun to acknowledge that its product is bad for people's health. The times they are a-changin'.
There are so many home-made alternatives to soft drinks, which use pure water with teas, herbs and citrus fruits. Now that's the "real thing"!