Monday, 28 January 2013

There's 38 sugar cubes in a supersize Coke and so Coke are facing bans. So they do a TV Ad to respond. And it makes things worse. When Advertising backfires.

New York's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, promised last spring that he'd ban the sales of big, supersized sugary drinks (portion control), school bans on dispensers of them and possibly increase a sales tax on them. 

He had already completed the ban on smoking and this is his new challenge - obesity.

The average American drinks 45 Gallons of soft drinks a year.....sugary sodas are the single largest source of calories in the American diet. A regular Coke has the equivalent of 27 sugar cubes in it. And the supersize Big Gulp? 38 sugar cubes. 36% of Americans are obese and are estimated to cost 147 billion usd in medical care. 

So last year, New York started an advertising campaign aimed at anti-soft drinks in a campaign to tackle obesity and diabetes. In other words, they took on Coke, whom have been described as the "seller of liquid candy". Which they are and over which there should be no dispute.

The 75 Billion usd soft drink industry, fronted by Coke, has now launched its response and industry lobbyists have taken to court to block Bloomberg's plans on the ban as well as an Ad campaign of their own. And this response will in fact, do the industry more harm than good. 

Their is a growing backlash against the company by consumers and outrage fuelled by their very own TV Commercial. It's like tobacco companies whom when faced with an Ad ban, came out to explain that cigarettes were not linked to cancer - and produced medical quacks to prove it. Coke is doing the same thing and that is really annoying people. Coke are trying to pretend that they are actually, at the forefront of doing good work on obesity. Dear, oh dear.

Frankly, I am not surprised there's a backlash. Watch this next commercial and it's just shocking where Coke is sponsoring kids breakfast clubs. Shocking and disgraceful marketing and advertising. They are going to be the authors of their own bans and demise.

They're running a two minute Ad on national TV (top of this blog) and a 30 second approach. One commercial "coming together" shows the supposed initiatives Coke has taken to address the calorie/obesity problem. Another shows the ways you can burn off the calories - like "laughing out loud" is one, I kid you not.

Against a background of slim actors sipping Coke and healthy youngsters exercising, a voice over offers a simple explanation for the growing obesity crisis in the eyes of Coke - "If you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, then you'll gain weight" goes the Coke jingoism as a woman jogs through shot. 

Pathetic? unbelievably so and any attempt to try to position Coke as being in the vanguard of obesity is just ludicrous and won't work. Is the Ad Agency thinking at all? The idea that Coke is somehow involved in the fight against childhood diabetes, just is beyond belief, whilst at the same time, like McDonald's, uses appalling marketing tricks to target kids. Like sponsoring their breakfast clubs. Jesus. It's like tobacco companies saying that they are at the forefront of tackling cancer.

Of course, by doing all of this, it is growing its own criticism, drawing more people into the debate which weren't previously. The commercial angers people and clearly it has backfired. This commercial angered me and looking at the Breakfast Clubs and this commercial, it's about time Coke got a new marketing team or proposition. They're damaging their own brand.

As a Fellow of The Institute of Advertising, a Fellow of The Marketing Institute, a former board member of the European Ad Council (EAAA) and as a former 2 term Ad Institute President, I'd support a ban on Coke in schools, an Ad ban, a ban for larger drinks and an Advertising tax, simply because Coke are both contributing to obesity AND damaging advertising. 

When you produce advertising you have a responsibility, because it is so very powerful and with that responsibility, there are things you must not do - lines you do not cross. Coke, it seems to me, could care less. They'll do whatever it takes.

European action is already underway - France taxes these drinks, Denmark taxes saturated fats, Hungary taxes hamburgers and the UK is considering a "fat tax". 

Bloomberg says that more people are going to die from obesity than smoking and he's probably right. This is not a man to be diverted and he's prepared to take on this insidious industry, head-on. Good man. 

As for Coke? 
They're eating themselves through poor planning and crass advertising execution. 

Let them.