Coca-Cola is the world's number one beverage company, and known for ad campaigns that equate soft drinks with joy. From "Have a Coke and a Smile" to "open happiness" and the Happiness Machine, Coca-Cola has always focused on positivity. But in new commercials hitting the air starting today, the brand will do something it has never done before: Address obesity.
As CBS News reports:
Diana Garza Ciarlante, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Co., said the new ads aren't a reaction to any negative public sentiment but that the company felt it needed to address "the issue of the times" and be part of the discussion on obesity.
"We have not done a good enough job in telling our story and being consistent in telling our story," she said, noting the company had to be careful in its messaging to remain consistent with its brand voice and avoid sounding "preachy."
What "story" is being told, exactly? Well, Coca-Cola wants you to know that Coca-Cola has been offering more and more low-calorie options over the years: Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and, um, Dasani water. (Which, as you know, is tap water.) But Coca-Cola also wants to remind you that "weight gain is the result of consuming too many calories of any kind — not just soda."
According to Candice Choi, writing for the AP:
In the ad, a narrator notes that obesity is an issue that "concerns all of us" but that people can make a difference when they "come together."
Wait, what? Are you saying just hanging out in a group makes you lose weight?
Another ad, which will run later this week during "American Idol" and before the Super Bowl, is much more reminiscent of catchy, upbeat advertising people have come to expect from Coca-Cola. It features a montage of activities that add up to burning off the "140 happy calories" in a can of Coke: walking a dog, dancing, sharing a laugh with friends and doing a victory dance after bowling a strike.
Ohhhhhh… so Coke is made of happy calories. Not angry, depressed or sad calories. Got it.
Of course, Coca-Cola is a business, so more than anything, Coca-Cola wants to make sure that while you are concerned about obesity, you are still drinking Coca-Cola products. Choi notes that "In North America, all the growth in its soda business over the past 15 years has come from low- and no-calorie drinks, such as Coke Zero. Diet sodas now account for nearly a third of its sales in the U.S. and Canada." That said, the amount of soda Americans are drinking has been on a steady decline since 1998. (Even though it seems like fast-food and movie theater cups get larger and larger.)
Right here in New York City, March 2013 will bring a ban on drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, with no talk of happy or sad calories. But when it comes to Coca-Cola, the question is whether acknowledging obesity while pushing happy calories will make a difference in sales. Don't people who are counting calories already know that soda is empty calories? Aren't people who love Coca-Cola aware that it's full of sugar? Isn't that why they like it?