Coca-Cola forced to respond to criticism over sexist new ads

"The feedback that we received... was that they love the milk, but the campaign was less compelling. So going forward ...

"The feedback that we received... was that they love the milk, but the campaign was less compelling. So going forward we’ve got other cool advertisements coming your way!" the company wrote on their website this morning, following widespread criticism.

Coca-Cola is facing criticism over its marketing campaign for a new high-end milk drink, with online commenters labelling the ads "sexist", "gratuitous" and "boring".  

The ads - made to promote the company's new "premium milk brand" Fairlife, launching in the US later this month - feature photos of naked women covered in milk.

One photo goofily plays on Marilyn Monroe's iconic flying skirt moment ("Milk with flair!", says the attached tagline), while another sees a woman standing on a set of weight scales with a shocked look on her face, in that classic pose of female-directed advertising. "Better milk looks good on you," says an accompanying caption; "Drink what she's wearing," says another.

According to Laura Bates from The Guardian, the ads appear to be based on "an existing set of photographs by London-based photographer Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz", called 'Milky Pin-Ups'.

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"Seeing these images of women’s bodies being used, once again, to advertise an unrelated consumer product is a tedious reminder that when it comes to the objectification of women in advertising, we seem to be slipping backward instead of moving forward," wrote Bates. "Yes, there’s a tenuous argument to be made that the link is valid if the milk is being promoted as healthy and good for your body, but that doesn’t explain the sexualisation of the women, nor the lack of any male counterparts."

Similar criticisms appeared across social media:

Coca-Cola officially launched Fairlife - a lactose-free milk featuring "50% more protein, 50% more calcium and 30% less sugar" - and its accompanying marketing campaign at Morgan Stanley's Global Consumer Conference last week. "It's basically the premiumisation of milk..." the company's North American chief Sandy Douglas told the conference, "and we’ll charge twice as much for it as the milk we’re used to buying in a jug."

But the company appeared to back-track from its official push in a statement posted on its website this morning.

"Who knew Fairlife, LLC, would make international headlines with our new ultra-filtered milk, even before being launched? Exciting stuff, but unfortunately, some of the news articles have been a wee bit wrong..." the company wrote, maniacally. 

"The 'pin-ups' advertising may have been eye-catching, but we’re taking a totally new approach…" they added, stating the pictures were mainly being used for the purpose of focus group research. "So let’s not get hung up on the old, outdated campaign that was retired in June and instead let’s get excited about what’s to come!".

Fortunately, we may not have to: according to a statement from a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, there are no plans for the product's release in Australia.