Profile: Jeremy Gilley

The man marketing world peace

Charities question credibility of Coke balanced diet ad

Health charities have questioned the credibility of a Coca-Cola campaign that tries to prove its drinks can be part of a balanced diet, claiming it is unclear how brands such as the Coke masterbrand and Sprite would help the public lead a healthier lifestyle.

The “Grandfather” advert launched today (14 August) and compares the lifestyles of older and modern day consumers to show how eating well and drinking Coke in moderation can be beneficial to healthier living. Coke says the push aims to highlight how following the lifestyle “enjoyed by our grandparents” - moving more, eating well, taking it easy - can be beneficial.

It is based on “hundreds of stories”, according to the business and is part of a wider marketing push across its portfolio to help curb obesity levels in the UK.

Charities Sustain and Weight Concern, however, have questioned whether the company’s latest ad is a serious attempt to curb obesity rates in the UK or a “slick” PR move.

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator for Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign, says: “’Move more’ and ’eat well’ are definitely things we would support and encourage. But can drinking Coca-Cola ever really be part of a ’healthy lifestyle’, as the film title suggests? Coke seems to be a proponent of the nudge school of thought, hoping that viewers pick up on the subtle differences in lifestyle shown in the ad and are encouraged by nostalgia or whatever to be more like grandfather.

“It is worth noting how all the bottles in the ad are full sugar versions of Coke and then they sneak in a quick image of Coke Zero at the very end. I think that says it all about how serious the company really is about changing our drinking habits.”

Dr Laura McGowan, executive director at Weight Concern, says: “Although Weight Concern supports efforts which are intended to help the public live a healthier lifestyle, it is unclear as to how this particular advertising campaign does that. Getting people to move more and consume fewer calories is an important public health challenge for us all, and reducing the number of ‘empty calories’ consumed through soft drinks is one key issue. However, much more needs to be done.”

Coke has defended the advert claiming it is educating people to make “make conscious choices about the importance of balancing calories in and calories out”.

In a statement the company said: “This ad doesn’t stand alone and we stand by the importance of communicating on energy balance. We know we can’t fix obesity on our own, but these actions are part of a long-term commitment on our part to help tackle the problem.

”All of our drinks can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle. We recognise that it is important to offer consumers a range of options, and the advert reflects this with the Coke Zero option included.”

Coke will launch a further two ads later in the year alongside activity for Coca-Cola Zero and a push for Coke’s slimmer cans with fewer calories, which launched earlier this year. The company has come under repeated fire from health campaign groups over a number of years for its perceived lack of effort to tackle the nation’s rising obesity levels.

The drinks maker claims it knows ”advertising alone” will not address the challenge of obesity, but believes it can help by launching wider measures such as the reformulation of Sprite.

Readers' comments (2)

  • So basically to be healthy I need to eat Jam and Toast for breakfast, drive to work (not cycle), drink diet coke, eat crisps whilst sat I my desk all day, not take a lunch break, eat white bread, drive home, eat a microwaveable meal and then drink another diet coke...... am I missing something?!

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  • Oh, for goodness' sake! What is Coke supposed to do? Close down its business entirely, just to make some sceptics happy, or try to be part of the solution? Of course, Coke can be part of a healthy balanced diet. The obesity problem did not exist in the UK 20 years ago, but Coke has been around much longer. So give Coke a break and encourage its attempts to be part of the solution. How can any company (or any individual) turn over a new leaf if it (he) is met with prejudice?

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