Coke's New Anti-Obesity Ad: Lots of Skinny, Happy People Holding Cans

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Public health efforts around the country have been calling out soda's central role in the obesity crisis. Most famously, New York City is set to ban soda servings over 16 ounces. A similar proposals is being mulled over in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mark Bittman has criticized soda advertising and a bevy of researchers say the link between sugary drinks and obesity is undeniable. So how does Coca-Cola respond to all that finger-pointing? By launching an ad campaign today full of happy, not-obese people enjoying soda — and already this commercial has people drawing the big-tobacco comparisons:

Say what you will about the zooming-in on the calorie counts, but, to be fair, Coca-Cola's move today makes it the first soda maker to address obesity in its advertising. The ad touts Coke's array of low and no-calorie drinks, as well as its efforts to put fewer high-calorie beverages in schools. And it's a tonal 360° from those soda industry-funded ads decrying (in heavy Noo Yawk accents) mayor Michael Bloomberg's "soda ban." 

But lots of early viewers aren't buying it. Some are comparing Coke's new strategy to big tobacco's messaging on the health effects of smoking. "All calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories," says the honey-voiced narrator, even though it's well known that not all calories count in proper nutrition. (National Institues of Health scientists would likely point out that children get much of their empty calories from soda.) Also, certain lines seem to be telling soda drinkers it's their fault that they're fat. "If you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight." And for an advertisement supposedly about obesity, there's a notable lack of obese people here. 

"We have not done a good enough job in telling our story and being consistent in telling our story,"  says Coca-Cola spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante. The ad will begin running on cable news channels tonight. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.