THE advertising industry has come under fire for failing to act on controversial claims that Coca-Cola does not make people fat or rot their teeth — claims the national consumer regulator has now ruled were “totally unacceptable”.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission yesterday ordered Coca-Cola to publish corrections in newspapers around the country over its “motherhood and myth-busting” campaign last year, which featured high-profile Australian actress Kerry Armstrong.
The ACCC found the advertisements had the potential to mislead consumers by suggesting Coca-Cola could not contribute to weight gain, obesity or tooth decay.
It also ruled misleading the claim that 250ml of Diet Coca-Cola contained half the amount of caffeine as that in the same sized cup of tea.
Late last year the industry-funded Advertising Standards Bureau dismissed similar complaints about the “myth-busting” campaign because, among other reasons, it did not promote “excessive consumption” and included extra detail about dental hygiene.
Health and dental groups applauded the ACCC’s crackdown on the Coca-Cola campaign, while consumer advocates said it highlighted the failure of the advertising industry to effectively regulate itself.
“It just really underlined that (advertisers) are out of line with community standards,” Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said. “Advertisers are the people who are meant to keep their fingers on the pulse of society, but we would argue that in terms of junk food advertising they are just way out of step.”
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Coca-Cola Busted for ‘Myth-busting’ Campaign (2009)
When Coca-Cola, using actor Kerry Armstrong as their figurehead, published
‘myth-busting’ advertisements that claimed, among other things, that Coca-Cola
does not make you fat, and does not rot your teeth, they were met with
The advertisements were subject to a joint complaint by the Obesity Policy
Coalition, The Parents Jury, and the Australian Dental Association. In response,
Coca-Cola claimed that they had simply tried to add an element of ‘balance’ to
the debate around fizzy drinks. By using a mother figure—Kerry Armstrong spoke
about ‘motherhood and myth-busting’ in the advertisements—Coca-Cola tried to
appeal to the ‘mum-market’, but failed miserably, as parental organisations were
outraged by the unacceptable statements made by the company.
After the investigation of the case by the Australian Competition and
Consumer Commission (ACCC), the company was strong criticised for publishing
misleading information and was ordered to launch a national corrective
advertisement campaign. After the ACCC’s decision, Coca-Cola published a new
statement, ‘Coca-Cola—Setting the Record Straight’, which admitted that ‘All
kilojoules count’, but still underlined that no single beverage is responsible for
weight gain. In response to the ‘busted myth’ that Coca-Cola rots teeth, the
company had to state clearly that products containing sugar and food acid
contribute to the risk of tooth decay. But they also pointed out other products that
contain food acid, such as citrus fruit. In addition, Coca-Cola had to rectify the
statistics on the amount of caffeine contained in the product, which had been
incorrectly quoted in the previous ad.
As a consequence of this advertising debacle, Coca-Cola lost credibility
because of its poor and misleading contribution to the ongoing debate on the
impact of soft drinks on obesity and dental and general health. Sociological reflection
How influential are food corporations in shaping people’s food habits?
Consider the role of structure and agency in your response (in terms of social
and individual responsibility for food consumption).
What could be done to improve public health nutrition by addressing the role
played by food corporations?
‘Coca Cola in strife over Kerry Armstrong ads’, ABC News online, 2 April 2009
The Coca-Cola ‘myth-busting’ advertisement
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), ‘ACCC acts on
Coca-Cola—Setting the Record Straight