Shame Has No Place in Marketing

vitaminwate The Coca-Cola Corporation peddles its “Vitamin Water” brand of sugar-water as a vehicle for harvesting dollars from the long-standing (and largely business-implanted) public over-estimation of what vitamins are and what they do for human health and performance. A decent society would ban this pointless, cynical landfill fodder, and fine Coca-Cola for planning and promulgating it.

Something milder than that has happened in Britain, according to Advertising Age. There, the Advertising Standards Authority (an unthinkable institutional possibility here in the USA, of course) has told Coke it can’t run its normal ads for Vitamin Water, due to their blatant, exploitative falsity (which, of course, is the same thing as the brand’s very purpose and plan).

The news there, though, is more about the shameless, laughable lies Coke presented in its losing attempt at self-defense. As reported by Ad Age:

One poster was headlined “More muscles than brussels.” The complaints challenged the implication that the drink’s health benefits made it equivalent to eating brussels sprouts — a popular U.K. winter vegetable. Coca-Cola claimed that the phrase was instead a reference to former action-movie star Jean Claude Van Damme, who is commonly labeled the “Muscles from Brussels,” referring to his origins in the Belgian city.

Another ad claimed, “Keep perky when you’re feeling murky.” It jokingly advised consumers that if you drink Glaceau Vitaminwater you won’t have to waste your sick days on real illness, and can use them instead “to just, erm, not go in.” Coca-Cola insisted that the “perky” claim was about mood rather than health, and that it did not imply that the drink could prevent illness.

The ASA also received complaints that the ads promoted the range of drinks as healthy, when in fact they contain high levels of sugar. Coca-Cola’s defense was that the products are clearly labeled, and that 7.5 grams of sugar in 100 milliliters is not a “high sugar” content. However, the ASA upheld the complaints because the sugar contained in one Glaceau Vitaminwater represents 26% of an adult’s recommended daily sugar allowance.

It would make an excellent project to study the course of other corporate defenses to ASA charges. These speak volumes about the depth of dishonesty and contempt at the very heart of big business marketing.

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