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Coca-Cola Anti-Obesity Ad Proof Government Intervention Is Good

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A recent Coca-Cola anti-obesity ad has spurred reactions from many; some bad, some good, but more importantly, it is proof that governmental intervention on topics like obesity is necessary.

Last week, for the first time on TV, Coca-Cola addressed the obesity epidemic with two new ads, “Coming Together,” and “Be OK.” This is, according to Steve Cahillane, President of Coca-Cola Americas, an effort by the Atlanta-based company to play a greater role in the obesity debate.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zybnaPqzJ6s]

The videos have received criticism on social network websites, like Twitter.  Many people perceive the move as a desperate attempt by the company to clean its image.

Last summer, Coca-Cola and other members of the soda industry not only led a very aggressive campaign against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s soda ban, but also filed a lawsuit against the Board of Health in order to overturn the restrictions.

Coca-Cola’s new campaign is proof that government intervention on an issue such as obesity is good for three reasons:

1. Coca-Cola would not change its habits if not for government pressure

Coca-Cola’s response to attacks that drinking soda leads to weight gain and obesity cannot be unrelated to the lost battle against the New York soda ban. This means that government action has led to corporate change for the better.

In the ad, Coca-Cola prides itself in having voluntarily diminished the number of calories in the drinks accessible in school vending machines by 90 percent since 2006.

However, this self-regulation was not completely voluntary as it came at a time when state and local authorities started to enact legislation restricting the type of beverages that could be sold in schools; once again proving that corporate change followed government measures.

2. Coca-Cola applies the same principles as the government 

Coca-Cola’s strategy to reduce calorie intake in its ad confirms that the policies used by the government are the rights ones. The company chose to limit choices to low or no calorie drinks in school vending machines, putting a de facto ban on full sugar beverages.

In creating a new line of smaller sized products, Coca-Cola is emphasizing that limits on the sale of super-sized sodas is not without warrant.

3. Campaigns Such as the Coca Cola one Remains Insufficient and Misleading

Mark Bittman, food columnist at the New York Times, had the perfect description for the Coca-Cola ad: “So professional. So brilliant. So smart. And so deceitful.” Tweet this quote:

If this obesity campaign is a start in recognizing the link between soda and obesity, Coca-Cola presents its product as just another type of food, with its share of calories.

Missing from the campaign, however, is that sodas account for seven percent of the American adult calorie intake, more than any other ingredient. Also, calories from sugary drinks are different than other calories as they have no nutritional value at all. At best, they are calories that you do not need. At worst, they are linked to diseases such as obesity and diabetes, according to Mark Bittman.

These discrepancies between the world described in advertisements and reality are a normal part of any corporation’s marketing strategy. However, it is a last reminder that when it comes to an issue such as obesity, leaving it to the industry to self-regulate is an illusion.

If we do want to commit this country to solve the issue of epidemic obesity, people will have to accept that governmental initiatives are needed to make progress.

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.

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Xander Pakzad
Xander Pakzad

Do people really fall for this kind of advertising? They're not talking about their product, they're trying to improve their brand by taking credit for things that have happened in their industry. I guess it's responsible compared to other commercials or forms of advertising, but they're still just trying to make money.

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier

you raise some great points here Tom, a government 'regulation' of sugary sodas is merely a response from consumers to promote a healthier society. Coke is merely reacting to these consumer demands

Tom Kiefer
Tom Kiefer

"Many people perceive the move as a desperate attempt by the company to clean its image."

So? What's wrong with that? A company perceives a change in its market demand, and adjusts accordingly if it wants to survive. (Disclaimer: I am not a Coca-Cola fan by any stretch of the imagination.)

"1. Coca-Cola would not change its habits if not for government pressure."

Coca-Cola would not change it's habits if not for the [finally] shifting demands of the consumer base that buys its products. Educate the people, and their choices will motivate businesses to change.

"...people will have to accept that governmental initiatives are needed to make progress."

Education and awareness of the citizenry is needed to make progress. Governmental initiatives are crude patches in the meantime that go terribly wrong at least as often as they do good. (E.g., the long-lived government corn subsidy, intended to aid farmers, that fueled the prominence of high-fructose corn syrup in *everything* and thus helped to fuel the obesity epidemic.)

Jane Susskind
Jane Susskind

I agree. I think that education should come first. The government cannot change people's minds about drinking soda by simply limiting choices in certain instances. People who want 32 oz. of Coke will find a way to get 32 oz. of Coke.

The government should focus its efforts on educational programs aimed at raising awareness about the dangers and cost of obesity in America.

That being said, I think when it comes to health initiatives, the government has historically been successful in their efforts to limit certain things that are known to cause health issues. I am not against government action on the issue of obesity. I just don't think regulation on soda is the right way to go about the issue.

Blake Bunch
Blake Bunch

"Jim Beam is sponsoring AA." Coca-Cola calling obesity "the issue of this generation," may be ripping off PEPSI a little bit. I agree with Alex - it is a highly reactionary move.