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Coke turns an attack into a benefit

I live in a city with an aggressively pro-health mayor. Bloomberg and the NYC health department are currently waging a war of advertizing with soft drink companies.

Here’s a picture from an early phase of the city’s ad campaign (launched in 2009), which attracted attention for being gross.

NYC Pouring on the pounds

And here’s a new phase of the campaign that’s been running lately on transit posters.

You'd have to walk 3 miles NYC soda map ad

The soft drink companies have responded with some industry ads stressing that soft drinks are a personal choice. Here’s one from a trade group called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices.


But more interesting is this one ad I’ve seen a few times for Coca-Cola, running on digital signs. It takes the attack and turns it into a benefit. How? By drawing attention to the calorie count from a can of Coke — 140 calories! — and making it sound positive, without much effort at all.

Coca Cola 140 Calories

Follow the link in the ad and you’ll find a page with this copy on it:

“There’s no secret to how many calories are in a Coke. That’s why we display calorie information on the front and the back. An active, healthy lifestyle includes making sensible, balanced choices about your overall diet and getting enough physical activity.”

The implications are: 1) Having 140 calories isn’t so bad. Or at least it isn’t a big deal. 2) Even if it is bad, it’s your choice and we’ve always been honest about it.

That works, especially because I like Coca-Cola, and you probably do too, and I’d rather not have my government telling me I’m not supposed to enjoy it. But it also reminds me of a long history of arguments in favor of harmful products (alcohol, tobacco, gambling, etc.): Of course our product is bad for you! But it’s a personal choice and an indulgence, so exercise your freedom to do something irrational.

Maybe it’s time to change “Open happiness” to “Live dangerously.”

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising

One comment

  1. A.Men says:

    I’ll drink whatever I want, Nanny Bloomberg and food police!

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