Former Coca-Cola marketing executive Todd Putman's appearance on ABC earlier this month, in which he expressed apologies over a "karmic debt" for marketing to teens, Hispanics and African Americans, has resulted in a slew of responses in the food and advertising communities -- some of which have generated as much conversation as Putman's original comments.
David Morse, a multicultural market researcher for a "big soft-drink company," published a piece in Ad Age in defense of the industry and such practices:
Multicultural marketing is about talking to minorities -- or if you prefer, the new mainstream -- and representing them, acknowledging them and showing them that you care about their business. Could soft-drink companies and others in the sugar business do a better job of promoting healthy food and beverage consumption, particularly among African Americans and Hispanics? Absolutely. Do they owe these groups an apology? I don't think so.
But one of Morse's points in particular has struck an angry nerve: That soda companies deserve to be applauded for appealing to minorities.
Newsweekly Creative Loafing's Atlanta paper -- based in the same city as Coca-Cola headquarters -- lambasted Morse's piece as "insulting, bizarre, confusing, racially icky."
The paper also mentions a line in Morse's piece alleging that companies target Hispanics and African Americans only because these groups are much less interested in diet products and that sugary drinks are the money makers. "Often the sweeter the better," writes Morse.
Grub Street also gave its two cents on the story:
...David Morse, a soda guru for Ad Age, says sorrrrry, but those folks do guzzle more of the carbonated crap, and should actually thank the soda companies for ... well ... wait ... we're not quite sure what ... either obesity or cavities or racism light. After all, soda "does well" with them!
In response to anti-obesity measures like Bloomberg's soda ban proposal, Morse writes that the soft drink industry "is being demonized as if it were the new big tobacco."