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Coca-Cola Removes Itself from Obesity Message in Latest "Chairs" Ad

Posted by Abe Sauer on March 27, 2013 12:39 PM

"We are… chairs. And now it's time to conquer you."

"What if we stand up?" is the message in a new ad for Coca-Cola, part of the soda maker's "4 commitments to fight overweight and sedentary lifestyle" campaign and part of Coke's larger push to get out ahead of the negative "sugary drinks" PR wave. By breaking the message that connected the Coke brand to "the problem," it's a departure from the brand's previous "obesity" messaging. 

The ad is running in Spain—where Coke just signed a new bottling agreement and launched is "Happiness" ATMs as part of its global "Open Happiness" campaign.

The ad follows ones in the U.S. and in the U.K.

Coke's first round of ads were about "coming together" and held that the brand had a very active role to play in the drive to promote health, like putting calorie information on its cans to posting messages about counting calories on its vending machines. Cynics reacted as cynics always react, but to Coke's benefit, doing "sincerity" in a post-modern communications environment is difficult and the brand deserves some credit. Its follow up message—"Be Ok"—may have been a lot of spin about "happy calories," but the brand was basically saying, "If you drink a can of Coke you should exercise." That is not the brand message any soda company wants to necessarily make. 

That's why the Spanish "Chairs" spot is worrisome.

A spokesperson for Publicis Spain, the ad's creators, told brandchannel, "The goal was to open the discussion with the society about the sedentary lifestyle problem. Some studies show that people spend more than half of their lives seated and that was the inspiration for the idea. Since the insight is human and universal the campaign can be used in future in other countries, depending on Coke Worldwide's decision."

But in "Chairs," gone is Coke's role in promoting health. Sure, it's meant to be funny but the substituted message is about how it's the consumer's fault for sitting down so much. Coke is implying that its a third, disintereted party and that consumers should take it up with their chairs (which, really, is another way of saying consumers should take it up with themselves).

Publicis Spain says, no, that it's "just one piece of a bigger campaign." The agency told us that a second film will debut in April "with more focus on solutions" and "a web platform to promote commitments to fight obesity and sedentary lifestyle."

On its own, the ad is just that, one ad (and one for Spain at that), but it could also signal a clandestine phasing out of Coke's role in increasing health and the tying of the Coke brand to "a problem," a messaging connection the brand certainly never wanted to make in the first place.


Jeff P. United States says:

I don't see the problem with this campaign.  This is a typical case of us not taking responsibility for our own actions.  Yes, Coke might make a sugary calorie packed product, but me buying it is my responsibility.  Me buying it and choosing to sit on my rear is also my responsibility.  I think it's a brilliant marketing concept personally.  

March 28, 2013 09:06 AM #

Blackpheonix United Kingdom says:

I think it is a very witty advert, without being too preachy.... we must embrace our responsibility unless we want to end up in a nanny state!

March 30, 2013 03:18 AM #

Hilton Barbour Canada says:

As a singular piece of communication it is, IMHO, a little too intellectual. I certainly like it but its too subtle to make any behavioural change or even nudge folks forward. Thankfully it will (likely) be supported by a wealth of supporting efforts to flesh this idea out.

Coke remains in a tricky spot. Acknowledge culpability and become an easy target. Say nothing or be obscure and the cynics will have a field day. However, like the other commentators, I'd suggest the issue lies with us, the consumer, and we should accept OUR responsibility first.

March 31, 2013 09:08 AM #

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