Ethical Coke campaign shows glimpse of future
A view from Danny Rogers

Ethical Coke campaign shows glimpse of future

First of all: "hello". It is a privilege to be running one of Britain's oldest and greatest business titles.

I look forward to meeting many of you in the coming weeks. I want to hear your views on the industry; on the killer trends; and on Campaign, which is here to keep you informed, help with your career, and hopefully stimulate and entertain along the way.

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Despite spending 15 years in and around the ad industry, more recently I’ve focused on corporate affairs and politics – editing PRWeek – so I was intrigued to see Coca-Cola’s fresh approach to corporate advertising this week.

The world’s most popular drinks brand, or the maker of perniciously fattening, teeth-rotting beverages – whichever is your viewpoint – launched a landmark "anti-obesity" campaign on Monday.

A two-minute spot, "coming together", was shown on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, warning punters that calories count in managing their weight, including those in Coca-Cola products. Yesterday, another spot made its debut during American Idol, reminding Coke-drinkers that they should "have fun" burning off the 140 calories in a can.

The campaign, by Bright House and Citizen2, won’t be hauling in the creative prizes at Cannes. So far, it’s a series of clichéd library shots, overlaid by a narrative of complex messaging.

But this is a tricky brief. Coke is accepting the growing obesity crisis in America (and, by implication, everywhere else) and its own responsibility to provide diet alternatives and smaller servings. And yet it doesn’t want to scare people away from the core drinks. The social media reaction is, rightly, sceptical. But we should see this as a positive move.

The message that consistently consuming more calories than one is burning off will make one obese tangibly needs to be communicated better. Governments have patently failed to convince populations of such basic truths or use primary legislation to change behaviours.  

That Coca-Cola now accepts that it is part of the problem, and therefore part of the solution, is encouraging. And this comes in the same week that Coke said it would donate E3 million per year to help the WWF’s polar bear conservation campaign.

Recent Havas research shows that consumers now expect such actions from big business. And if these brands invest sufficiently in advertising, backed by heavyweight ethical policies, it has to be a good thing. It is certainly a sign of things to come.  

The Coke campaign is also another great example of the increasingly blurred line between advertising and corporate PR, which continues to drive creative innovation globally. Now we need to see the brand consistently integrate this ethical truth into all its communications.