How Millennials Are Responding to Coca Cola's New Anti-Obesity Campaign


Editor's Note: Earlier this week, Coca-Cola addressed obesity for the first time, launching a global advertising campaign in the U.S. showcasing its efforts to help address the obesity epidemic in America. The company released a two-minute video, titled "Coming Together," which highlights some of the specifics behind the Company's efforts to deliver more beverage choices, including low- and no-calorie options, and to clearly communicate the calorie content of all its products. On Wednesday, Coca-Cola will release a second ad called "Be OK," which makes it clear that a can of Coca-Cola has 140 calories and encourages people to have fun burning those calories off.

The advertisements have been discussed widely in the media, so we asked several of PolicyMic's top millennial pundits to weigh in on the first advertisement and share their thoughts on the company's new anti-obesity campaign. Read their comments below, and share your own views in the comment section.

1) Nate Abrams: "What Coke is doing amounts to a really nice gesture and slick marketing. It's great that they are making these changes, but their fundamental business model is still to maximize their profits by pushing sugary drinks on the American public. Their initiatives to combat obesity will continue to provoke cynicism until they reach the point when the majority of their products are low in calories, artificial sweeteners, and artificial colors. In short, if they really want to make a dent in the obesity epidemic, they need to do more than offer smaller portion sizes of the same products. They need to flip the orientation of their product structure so that it weighs far more heavily on the side of health."

"I don't see Coke or any other beverage brand as an evil empire. There is nothing wrong with seeking profit by selling people what they want. But if they want to be seen as a socially responsible corporation, as this video suggests, they will have to change their product portfolio. There is profit to be made in this space. Just ask Whole Foods. And it can be made at price points much lower than those of Whole Foods."

"Coke has the resources to create and market beverages that don't drive obesity and profit from them. The question is, do they have the will?"

2) Rajiv Narayan: "What the Coca-Cola advertisement campaign accomplishes is an attempt to regain control of the discourse. At the moment, public health groups and policy advocates are controlling the conversation on the obesity epidemic. Their message of healthier eating cuts into the bottom line of sweetened beverage and junk food companies. Thus, Coca Cola and other companies in this group are trying to do what they can to show they are part of the solution."

"First, this ad attempts to take ground away from public health groups, by indicating that a beverage company can also promote health, not just a clinical or legislative authority. If Coke can be seen as a credible voice on health, this lessens the influence of local health boards, legislatures, and think tanks. Second, food and beverage companies proposing a solution is a way for them to model their ideal solution — self-regulation. We saw this with McDonalds earlier this year. If these companies can successfully convince the public they’re doing a sufficient job policing themselves, they can escape regulation. Third, the ad highlights the central role of individual responsibility. Coke and McDonalds are not wagging their finger at you per se, but they are celebrating exercise after their meals and promoting the use of “awareness” made accessible by calorie labeling. Ultimately, however, these are relatively passive solutions to the very active role these companies play in pushing the envelope on calorie consumption."

3) Philip Schawillie: "Asking Coca-Cola to lead against obesity is like asking RJ Reynolds to lead the fight against smoking. It would require such an upheaval to corporate culture, so it seems near-impossible. Sure, 180 of Coke’s 650 beverage products are low-calorie or no-calorie. But, what percentage of earnings do they represent? How much profit would Coke risk by this cultural change? Right now, the company can justify these products as appealing to a niche market. But can they rebuild a company on such products?"

"I think the model for fighting obesity is the anti-smoking campaign originated by the Surgeon General’s office. That campaign has completely changed the image of tobacco use. We need to do the same with overeating. This effort could be supported by taxing foods that promote obesity, similarly to tobacco products."