Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Coca-Cola Lies to Doctors?

Sure looks that way to me.

The ad pictured above appeared on page 1632 of the June 17th edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The ad leads,

"Can't remember the last Coca-Cola ad targeted at children? There's a reason"
Reading the paragraph below,
"Parents tell us they prefer to be the ones teaching their children about beverage choices. That's why for over 50 years we've adhered to a company policy that prohibits advertising soft drinks to children."
Then they go on to brag about their voluntary efforts,
"And as a founding member of Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, we'vre recetnly extended this policy to include all forms of media, including broadcast, print, the web and beyond."
So what's my issue?

Well I can remember boatloads of Coca-Cola advertisements targeting children. From the famous Mean Joe Green football jersey commercial, to Santa Claus, little stuffed vending machine animals, animated polar bears, video games and recording and sports idols.

Thankfully, youtube remembers them as well and a smattering of them are posted down below (email subscribers, you'll have to actually visit the blog by clicking here as embedded videos don't make it into the email).

Visiting the Coca-Cola company's website you'll find that there's a lot of small print attached to their pledge but basically it comes down to this - it only applies to programming that is specifically geared towards children under the age of 12. I suppose that means targeting children during any family friendly shows (American/Canadian Idol, sports, some prime time stuff) is fair game and I suppose it also means Coca-Cola thinks your 12 year old is an adult.

What a beautiful example of how Big Food sponsored voluntary "regulation" through grandiose sounding endeavours such as the "Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative" aren't worth the paper they're written on.



CHRISTMAS (Entire commercial with 12 year olds)








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  1. Pepsi full-out admits that they target youth and it doesn't seem that they see any problem in doing so. The "generation" marketing strategy ("The choice of a new generation", "Be Young, Have fun, Drink Pepsi", "Generation Next") is aimed at selling ideas more than products. So although I see where Coke is not living up to their claims, at least they recognize that it is an issue.

  2. When I read that statement, I almost fell out of my chair laughing. I, too, can recall plenty of Coca-Cola ads aimed at children. In fact, when I was little, a bottle of Coke was as American as apple pie, and my mom always had some in the fridge, which probably explains my life-long addiction to the stuff. (I'm proud to say I *finally* quit drinking soda earlier this year.)

    I actually find Pepsi's stance more acceptable. At least they aren't attempting to re-write history, nor are they portraying themselves as a benevolent organization that actually tries to help parents. No, Pepsi, like Coca-Cola, is a business that sells fundamentally unhealthy products and profits from contributing to the growing obesity epidemic throughout the world.

    Coca-Cola's attempt to re-invent itself in an angelic light is disturbingly similar to that of the tobacco industry. "Hey, we're on *your* side," they keep saying, even as they do their best to get kids hooked on addictive substances at an early age. It's really quite disgusting.

    Some companies are just evil. No amount of sweet-talk can change that.

  3. Anonymous5:33 pm

    Anyone been to a children's movie lately? Coke is the primary ad you see on the screen, ticket and treats. It seems silly for them to make such a patently impossible claim to keep.

    Having worked for PepsiCo for many years, I can tell you this, the only customer either they or Coke worries about is those under the age of 12. Habitual use is developed at the early ages, before 6 that is where you get a lifetime brand-loyal fan.

    I left PepsiCo due the the fact that they had a fork in the road where they had a choice to find a way to work out of their products risks to health, and could not summon the courage to take it to the shareholders and make the case that it was the only long-term way to survive. In the short-run — next 20 or so years — they will soak every penny out of the consumer and somehow "redefine" themselves like Phillip-Morris has been doing.

    Very sad that Coke is not just admitting the real issue, but how to sell that, eh?

  4. When I saw this ad on the back of the CMAJ, I too laughed out loud! The fact that the CMAJ accepts this kind of advertising is also suspect. Shouldn't the organization that represents physicians take a fairly strong stance when it comes to enabling promotion of products / companies that have a direct effect on the health of the nation?

  5. Roman Korol8:52 am

    Way to take 'em to the woodshed! LOL!!