Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is Coca-Cola's Latest Calorie Dictionary Ad Purposely Deceptive?

You be the judge.

Below is the embedded copy of Coca-Cola's most recent anti-obesity advertisement. It's called, "Calorie Dictionary".

Watching Calorie Dictionary the inference is that it's incredibly easy to burn off the calories of a Coke.

They show various activities and then their apparent calorie counts. They also, at the beginning, note that the calorie values are for 5 minutes of the activity shown. Clearly though Coca-Cola expects the brief mention of 5 minutes to be forgotten as the bulk of their portrayed activities in real life are only momentary, like hugging a friend, falling, jumping out of a tree, or zipping up a dress which according to Coca-Cola respectively burn 7, 18, 11 and 12 calories. Seems to me that the message Coca-Cola is trying to hammer home is that calories are way easier to burn than you thought and that if you just move a teeny little bit, you can easily burn off their sugar water. Too bad it's not a truthful one.

According to the commercial if you spend 50 minutes (divided into 5 minute blocks) hugging people, swinging a sledgehammer, climbing fences, falling off mechanical bulls, jumping out of trees, running, shouting, lifting young children onto your back, diving to the ground, and zipping up a dress then you too will burn the number of calories you'd find in a 13.5 oz bottle of Coca-Cola.

Such nonsense, and more to the point, want to know what's way easier? Not drinking them.

(And if you wanted to burn off the much more ubiquitous 20oz bottle you'll need to combine 75 minutes worth of 7.5 minute blocks of those same ridiculous examples.)

So what say you? Purposely deceptive or a helpful part of the "solution"?

Bookmark and Share


  1. Anonymous7:28 am

    They kind of say that Coke is OK and offer the Coke Zero for those who disagree. The campaign designed for the fence sitters who otherwise have decided that Pop is now off their intake.

    For those who drink it still...its part of a easy to manage lifestyle.

    Id say they paid a lot for the ad.

  2. Anonymous9:17 am

    They forgot to show how many calories are in injecting insulin twice a day, or getting filings at the dentist, or searching for new clothing because you have outgrown your existing clothing., I think their brand of pairing coke with fun, friends, and family is more successful.

  3. Anonymous9:34 am

    What I find most interesting is they've disabled comments on the Youtube video. I guess they don't want any objections?

  4. Anonymous9:48 am

    I'd say they're running scared! People are waking up and they don't like it. As you said, "Such nonsense, and more to the point, want to know what's way easier? Not drinking them." Coke sales must be dropping off and it's because people like you are finally getting us to take the blinders off and stop drinking their syrup!

  5. The message I'm getting from the commercial is "consume these 160 calories and you'll have energy to do all these life-loving things, which you might not have done otherwise" (Which falls apart with the mention of Coke Zero.)

    The secondary message is that people who drink Coke are active, beautiful people with healthy social circles, and if you want to be like them, you should drink Coke, too. Then you'll be someone who needs to consume extra calories to be active because you have none to spare.

  6. Anonymous11:22 am

    Oh they are clever! They are definitely counting on the “5 minutes” being totally gone from people’s minds as they watch the rest of the ad. I find it so scary and disturbing that if you have enough money, you can pay an ad company to say whatever you want, no matter how misleading – you just have to be very clever … and immoral. The laws about false and misleading advertising should be broad enough to cover this kind of B.S. and, if they are, they should be enforced. (Interesting re the YouTube video – I couldn’t even find that one on their page.)

  7. They do a great job as always with their marketing, dont they? Purposefully deceptive all the way.

    McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN | Nutrition Stripped

  8. Shahebina Walji6:54 pm

    What say I? Well, as a responsible physician and a health conscious mother, I say that this nonsense is irritatingly laughable... and laughably irritating. If there is such a thing as "responsible advertising" then in my opinion this would not be an example of it. I suppose a positive outcome of such ads would be that it makes it pretty easy for me to highlight the absurdity of such messaging to my patients and children.

  9. I guess I'm trying to understand the exact objection here. Is it that viewers will have a hard time conceptualizing that it's five minutes of each activity, added together, to equal the one bottle? Or is it that it's deceptive to suggest at all that you can simply be "more active" to counter the calories from the bottle?

    The former, I guess makes some sense; but the latter, not so much. I do think that in general, giving people information about calorie counts *and* the equivalent amount of activity to burn those calories is a good thing. As a runner, I tend to think of things in terms of "how many miles is that ___ equal to," with each mile burning (for me) about 90 net calories.

    Soft drinks happen to be my vice, but I figure that I can tolerate one a day or so because I average more than 5 miles of running a day, and that can is about 1.6 miles.

    So . . . is the complaint that 5 minutes of zipping a dress is a pretty useless measure, and that if the ad had simply said something like, "15 minutes of running" it would be acceptable?

  10. Anonymous1:37 pm

    Thank you for this blog Dr. F.. I can not believe the guts of coke to launch this commercial. How is jumping up a fence or running comparable to drinking a low pH (high acid) beverage that is loaded with sugar? In a world of fake foods, low-fat foods loaded with salt, low calorie and zero calorie beverages and snacks loaded with splenda and aspartane - it is getting harder to get folks to "kick the habit" and go back to basics...

  11. Anonymous5:20 am

    I just thought the commercial was audacious. If you paid attention according to Cokes own numbers (not sure they are correct):

    20.5 minutes sledge hammering = one 12oz can of Coke
    28.6 minutes running = a can of Coke
    61.5 minutes shouting = a can of Coke

    5 extra minutes of running from a dog equals 28 calories. Hence (160cal/28cal)x5 mintues= 28.6 minutes

    It would be good if people paid a little more attention in math class as well as nutrition.

    1. Anonymous4:05 pm

      I may have misunderstood the commercial. I think Coke is trying to say 5 minutes of running equals a can of Coke.

      Since when does 28 cal/min x 5 min= 160 calories? (maybe they should bring out 140 calorie can)

      From there the math only gets worse, but not near my original calculation.

      Average Male: 5’10” tall, weighing 160 lbs, jogging 8 mph or a 7 1/2 minute mile according to the Mayo Clinic burns 861 calories/hr or 14.35 calories/min

      160 cal ÷ 14.35 cal/minute = 11:09 minutes

      If you weigh less or are slower you will have to run for longer. Just saying