Dear Young Professionals,
Like thousands of other Americans, I too sat in a living room with friends during a commercial break of the Super Bowl, filled with outrage as I watched Coca-Cola’s $4 million “America Is Beautiful” ad. But unlike others, it was not the diversity displayed or the recognition that America is a country of immigrants- both old and new- that bothered me. From a marketing and communications standpoint, the ad was in fact brilliant in its targeted marketing to groups of Americans who are often neglected in mainstream media.
What angered me about the ad was just that: direct marketing to- among others- Latino Americans, Native Americans, and African Americans, populations who are most at risk for non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Even light to moderate consumption of soft drinks - sugary substances devoid of all nutritional properties - is directly correlated with increased risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. For each additional soda consumed per day, a child’s likelihood of obesity increases by 60%; every daily soda increases men’s risk of heart disease by 19%; drinking one or two soft drinks a day increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 25%.
The statistics go on and on, and despite scientific evidence to support these facts, big soda companies like Coca-Cola repeatedly deny the truth, lie to the public, and find more and more insidious ways to push their agenda on vulnerable populations.
What is equally- if not more- disconcerting is big soda’s tireless marketing to the young. In its “America Is Beautiful” ad, perfect, healthy faces of young people gleefully laughed or thoughtfully stared into the camera, so satisfied with their decision to have a nice cold can of Coca-Cola. In low- and middle-income countries, big soda sponsors sporting events, specifically targeting children while portraying its product as a fuel for athletes.
The soda industry focuses these efforts in the poorest areas of the world where it is cheaper to buy soda than healthy food, and it is social risk factors such as these that have led to a world where 29% of NCD-related deaths occur under the age of 60 in developing nations. In America and abroad, we grew up inundated by images of children skipping through fields holding hands while, “sharing a Coke and a smile”. Today, soda is the third greatest source of calories for children between the ages of 2 and 18 in the United States, and we are in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic.
The soft drink industry has been allowed for too long to blatantly encourage children to go down a path of bodily harm and destruction under the guise of being an accepted part of a global, inclusive community. By all means, let’s keep America beautiful. But let’s do it by keeping its future healthy and strong.
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