Two for Tuesday: Coca-Cola and Health

Coca-Cola, official 2014 World Cup partner, has proven something of a lightning rod in recent years with regards to its attempts to tackle health and weight issues surrounding its products in its advertising. This Two for Tuesday, we’re featuring two ad campaigns in recent years where Coke tried to re-brand as healthy, and the public response.

Back in the beginning of the year the company released its “Coming Together” commercial that highlighted the varying number of calories in its products and the importance of off-setting those calories with exercise. However, the claim in the commercial that “all calories count no matter where they come from,” ignited controversy due to the fact that health scientists have isolated soft drinks as having a greater effect on weight gain than other foods (some of the basis for New York’s soda ban).

Coca-Cola returned with a new ad also dealing with the caloric value of its products. This one, titled “Be Ok,” doesn’t generalize Coke with other foods and instead focuses on the activities it would take to burn off the calories in one can of Coke. The ad employs a heavy dose of text during its onscreen visuals to illustrate that one can of Coke is equal to a number of activities added together, as exemplified by the equal sign (=) and plus sign (+).

 

 

In the UK, ten viewers voiced their concerns over the ad, believing it to falsely represent the amount of activity required to burn off the 140 calories. The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority responded to the controversy by banning the ad for misleading consumers, saying that the mathematical iconography was not prominent enough to present itself as obvious to consumers, creating the false impression that the commercial was listing activities that would justify drinking a can of Coke, rather than combining them.

It seems a little strange that ten people speaking out could get an ad banned; if that were allowed all the time, it’d be hard to find an ad that wouldn’t be banned. But it’s good to look at how Coca-Cola has taken on an issue relevant to their brand head-on while responding to criticisms. The second commercial certainly avoids the problems in the first one, and does its best to make the activities that balance out drinking a Coke look like fun.

What’s at issue is how messages are received by different groups of people, and how much subtlety is appropriate in a given situation. It’s important to remember that though you can’t make a message where 100% of the people will understand your intention, making the effort matters a lot in the public eye. I’m curious to see what Coca-Cola does next.

Cover Photo Source: Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

Kaz is a Junior Executive at SJG. He earned BAs in English Writing and Business Marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing an MA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin. Outside the office, Kaz consumes gobs of media including but not limited to books, magazines, music, movies and television.