Coca-Cola's newest advertising campaign invites Americans to "come together" to address what they acknowledge is a leading issue of 2013: obesity. Sweetened by Coca-Cola's trademark of touching images, feel good music and sprinkling of nostalgia, the Atlanta beverage giant makes a play at convincing us that they want to be leaders in tackling the nation's weight problem. If you did not know better, it almost works.
But this new campaign has a fundamental flaw. Coca-Cola and its beverage industry brethren have the dubious distinction of being the biggest contributors to the nation's obesity crisis. Over the past 30 years, 43 percent of the increase in daily calories consumed by Americans has come from sugary drinks.
In a veiled mea culpa, Coca-Cola finally acknowledges the need to reverse their tendency toward super-sized portions, obscure label information and predatory marketing to children. Unfortunately, their initial steps and recommendations focused largely on physical activity are as flat as a lukewarm soda left on the counter all afternoon. In fact, in light of increased public support for regulations on their marketing practices, Coke's meager changes seem cherry-picked to provide more political cover than health impact.
In 2011, the California Center for Public Advocacy, in league with leading health professionals and organizations around the nation, challenged the beverage industry to give more than lip service to the obesity crisis. Given the industry's broad product mix, their unrivaled access to the youth market and retailers, and their unparalleled influence over what Americans drink, they are ideally suited to be a part of the obesity solution. For that reason, we proposed seven concrete and meaningful steps they could take to make a real impact. Sadly, Coca-Cola's latest campaign ignores all of these.
If Coca-Cola is serious about making a genuine contribution to solving the nation's obesity epidemic, here are seven steps that will put substance behind their latest campaign:
1. Stop all advertising and promotion of sugary drinks to children under the age of 16.
2. Print warnings on containers stating the link between consumption and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
3. Stop selling sugary drinks in parks, afterschool programs and other places frequented by children.
4. Put in large print the number of teaspoons of sugar per container.
5. Stop marketing sports drinks as healthy beverages.
6. Charge more for sugary drinks than equivalent no-calorie beverages.
7. Stop promoting the sale of sugary drinks at store entrances, checkout aisles and in store windows.
For full rationale behind these steps, visit: http://tinyurl.com/7StepSolution.
Given the magnitude of America's obesity crisis, Coca-Cola is right about one thing -- this is the time to come together to find real solutions. And while we congratulate Coke for publicly acknowledging the obesity epidemic, we urge them to make these seven changes.
As their new ad says, we all have a role in addressing obesity. No one has a bigger part to play than the beverage industry -- not simply by encouraging American's to exercise more but also by changing their own corrosive marketing practices.