Coca-cola: Ingredients vs. Aspirations

Was anyone else as conflicted about Coke’s Superbowl ad as I was? I want to applaud them for representing America as the land of diversity that it truly is. I want to stand behind them and boo the right-wing conservatives who hated it. But I also want to know when their ingredients and practices will measure up to the aspirations of their advertising.

After last week’s ad aired, some Coke critics directed people to #boycottcoke, not because of its portrayal of America in the commercial, but because Coke has too much sugar and destroys our environment. The website holds Coca-cola accountable for crimes in many countries. Articles like “Overexploitation and over use of water sources in India” abound.

What about those ingredients? The commercial shows the smiling and happy faces of a culturally diverse America. Studies show that drinking just one soda per day can raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 22 percent. Research also shows that the burden of diabetes is much higher for racial/ethnic minorities than for whites. So while their beautiful commercial brings a tear to my eye, I can’t help but be angry at an ad that appears to be targeting minorities to get them hooked on soda.

Of course if you work in marketing, you can’t help but admire what a genius move it was. It may have inflamed controversy and alienated conservatives, but for advertisers, it’s always about expanding market share. Coke did a great job of targeting their heavy users — those who drink several sodas every day. They also directed it squarely at an expanding demographic, the rapidly growing Latino market and other minorities. In fact, as Jill Fillopovic wrote in an article for The Guardian, “Coke’s targeting of Latino and other immigrant populations is about as progressive as RJ Reynolds marketing menthol cigarettes to African-Americans or Phillip Morris hawking Virginia Slims to women – that is, not very. Before we applaud Coke’s advertising diversity, we should ask: do we really want Coke to diversify?” (1)

How do you feel about the commercial, love it or hate it, or are you somewhere in the middle?



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