Coca-Cola’s new anti-obesity push suffered an embarrassing blow today after the UK’s advertising watchdog ruled its new TV campaign was misleading to consumers about how difficult it was to burn off calories from a can of Coke.
A 30-second ad, promoting Coke and Coke Zero as well as Coca-Cola’s new healthy living message, featured a picture of a Coke can and the messages “= 139 happy calories to spend on extra happy acitivities”.
The ad featured various activities, including walking the dog, dancing and laughing, which added together would burn off the 139 calories. The advert also pointed out that that if consumers felt like doing nothing, they could have a Coke Zero instead.
“We considered that it would not be clear to some viewers that it was the combination of all the activities depicted which would burn off 139 calories”
The ad resulted in complaints from 10 viewers, who claimed that the individual activities shown were not enough to burn the calories mentioned.
In its defence Coca-Cola Great Britain said the advert explicitly communicated that the activities featured needed to be done in combination to burn off the 139 calories in a can of Coke.
But the ASA said it did not consider the plus sign used was as prominent as the text describing the activities and claimed some viewers might infer it was purely decorative.
“In light of that ambiguity, we considered that it would not be clear to some viewers that it was the combination of all the activities depicted which would burn off 139 calories,” it ruled.
Separate complaints from viewers claiming that the ad and another 120-second TV spot made unjustified general health claims were rejected by the ASA.
Coke is now banned from showing the ad in the same form again.
“We are disappointed with this decision. The advert, which clearly described exactly how many calories there are in a can of Coca-Cola and suggested fun ways to burn them off, reached an audience of 39 million people. Ten people contacted the ASA about it,” said a Coca-Cola spokeswoman.
“The advert was intended to explain how people can help manage their energy balance by actively burning off calories consumed.
“Given the growing problem of obesity, we believe it is important for more people to understand this information. We will, of course, comply with the ASA’s decision, but raising awareness of energy balance is part of our global commitment to help tackle obesity and we will continue to use our advertising to address it.”
The news came a day after Coca-Cola reported a fall in global profits of 3% in the second quarter and 2% year to date, although it said it had achieved solid global and volume share gains in the category.