Chris Brook-Carter

Coke misunderstood?

By: Chris Brook-Carter - 24 November 2003 11:43

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A story doing the rounds in last week’s UK national and trade press claimed that the Coca-Cola Company had announced it will no longer advertise to children aged under 12.

In fact as Coke’s communications director Martin Norris confirmed to just-drinks, “Coca-Cola has had a policy in place for the last 50 years not to target children with adverts for carbonated soft drinks. In July we restated that policy, to bring all the brands we sell now under the same umbrella. No announcement has been made. This is not a new policy.”

So, is this sensationalist journalism, a twisting of the facts, or just outright confusion on exactly where Coke does stand on the issue of promoting to kids?

A policy such as this should be applauded, particularly when introduced some 50 years before the social pressure that is being brought to bare now, as ahead of its time, even visionary. However, while Coke continues to ally itself in sponsorship with such iconic childrens’ images as Harry Potter, as it did in 2001, it is both difficult to take it seriously and easy to see where the confusion springs from.

Coke’s defence was that the promotion was part of a commitment to improve literacy. But the boundaries between social philanthropy and advertising are extremely blurred in this case. And, until Coke takes more proactive measures to ensure children are not targeted directly it will continue to come under fire.

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