Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper: Friends, for Once, in an Ad Campaign

If you've been watching cable news this month, you may have noticed that Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper have teamed up to let everyone know that they support taking full-calorie sodas out of schools. The American Beverage Association has been running ads that feature good-natured vending-machine servicers of those three major bev conglomerates, all agreeing that regular soda doesn't belong in schools:

The ads have been running since March 8 nationwide, on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox, plus local TV stations in DC, Boston, New York City, Albany, and Buffalo. They're part of a coordinated campaign that has included print and online ads in Capitol Hill publications (The Hill, Roll Call, Politico, National Journal, and Congressional Quarterly), and the TV ads will keep running through the end of spring.

The American Beverage Association could end up spending around $10 million on the whole campaign, spokesman Kevin Keane estimated.

Usually Coke and Pepsi are seen together in Super Bowl ads, and it's not such a complimentary relationship. Here, for once, the delivery men get along.

The campaign has come amid a nationwide effort against childhood obesity, headed up by First Lady Michelle Obama, and a state-level push for a soda tax in New York.

Unlike, say, the Chamber of Commerce's support for forward-looking energy reforms (which does not entail support for cap-and-trade) or America's Health Insurance Plans' support for health care reform (yes to mandatory issue of insurance, yes to ending preexisting conditions, also yes to funneling money through the Chamber of Commerce for ads against health reform), the American Beverage Association appears to be taking concrete, proactive steps to get full-calorie sodas out of schools.

The day this campaign started, earlier this month, the association announced it had pulled full-calorie soft drinks (e.g. Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper--as opposed to Diet Coke, sports drinks, water, juices) out of 95% of schools, reducing the soda-related calories shipped to schools by 88%. (It's not 100% because some schools have contracts for vending machines, and they didn't want to change, the association says.) Bill Clinton and his foundation supervised this initiative and its report.

The targets of these ads are opinion-leaders and policymakers...and moms, according to Keane--not just the government policy heads, but the parents who are engaged in the issue.

The companies evidently want to be perceived--hence the expenditure on an ad campaign--as being on the right side of the obesity/soda-in-schools discussion. Obviously, if they have the Clinton Foundation's stamp of approval as self-regulating, it will be easier to fight the notion that they should be taxed and regulated by government. If the delivery men are already getting along, why pass a tax?

Disclosure: Coke is an advertiser with The Atlantic. I didn't consult them before writing this. I'm an RC Cola man, myself.