Why Coca-Cola will voluntarily stop marketing to kids
It may come as a surprise that Coca-Cola is being exceptionally sweet toward public health advocates these days. In an entirely voluntary move, the world’s largest soft drink producer announced Wednesday that they would cease all worldwide marketing efforts to children under 12, put calorie counts on all packaging and labeling and ensure that low-calorie and no-calorie versions of Coca-Cola beverages are available in every nation on earth where Coca-Cola is sold.
These all sound like commendable efforts to fight global obesity. These are also outstanding ways to stay one step ahead of government regulatory agencies in whose crosshairs the beverage company now finds itself.
The Coca-Cola Company has announced a self-imposed ban on marketing Coca-Cola to children as part of an anti-obesity campaign. Coca-Cola has even launched a website called ComingTogether.com that makes Coca-Cola look more like a fitness company than the world’s largest sugar drink manufacturer.
“Our responsible marketing guidelines include a global industry policy to not buy advertising directly targeted at audiences that are more than 35 percent under 12,” the company said in an infographic detailing Coca-Cola’s anti-obesity efforts. “This applies to TV, radio and print, and, where data is available, to the Internet and mobile phones.”
Coca-Cola had already banned marketing to the under-12 demographic in the US back in 2010. The self-imposed ban now applies to the entire global market. Coca-Cola is sold in every nation on earth, except Cuba and North Korea.
What gives? Why would a company voluntarily refrain from marketing its own product? Because the global backlash against soft drinks is becoming significant.
“Soft drinks are the devil product at the moment,” Jack Winkler, nutrition professor at London Metropolitan University, told the Wall Street Journal. Remember New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban large size sodas? Americans laughed at the effort, but there are new Mayor Bloombergs blooming up in several European nations — and Coke would prefer to handle their concerns proactively. France and Hungary have both recently passed significant additional taxes on soft drinks or sugary products, and the United Kingdom is considering an additional tax as well.
In response, Coca-Cola announced the ban on marketing to kids, promised to add calorie counts to all of their product labels and $3.8 million in funding for “active’ lifestyle programs.”
Do not be fooled by this $3.8 million in physical fitness program funding. Coca-Cola is a corporation that spends nearly $15 million a year on lobbying and government relations, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. These fitness programs are not a particularly elaborate gesture and they will only be conducted in the corporation’s home state of Georgia.
Despite the ban on marketing to kids, Coca-Cola plans to continue usingSanta Claus in their holiday season marketing efforts. It remains an open question whether this practice is naughty or nice.