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.
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
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.