Health Group Remakes Iconic Coke Ad With People Suffering From Soda-Related Diseases

From fast food restaurants removing sugary drinks from kid’s menus to city governments considering taxes on soda, the soft drink industry has been the target of a crusade to end – or at the very least reduce – consumers’ love affair with fizzy, sugar-laden drinks and raise awareness of the negative impact such calorie-filled beverages have on one’s health. Today that mission continued with the release of a video that aims to curtail the incidence of soda-related disease by turning the most iconic soft drink commercial on its head.

Forty-four years after Coca-Cola released the popular – and catchy – “Hilltop” ad featuring people from around the world singing about peace and buying each other Cokes, the Center for Science in the Public Interest put its own spin on the promotion, showcasing real people suffering from diseases related to soda consumption.

“For the past 45 years, Coca-Cola and other makers of sugar drinks have used the most sophisticated and manipulative advertising techniques to convince children and adults alike that a disease-promoting drink will make them feel warm and fuzzy inside,” Michael F. Jacobson, executive director for CSPI, said in a statement. “It’s a multi-billion-dollar brainwashing campaign designed to distract us away from our diabetes with happy thoughts. We thought it was time to change the tune.”

And so they did. While the classic ad – which recently returned to consumers’ minds during the finale of Mad Men – is bright and cheery, CPSI’s version takes the viewer to a more serious place – the hospital.

Instead of smiling, happy faces, the new “Change The Tune” ad features people suffering from hypertension, diabetes, tooth decay and weight gain singing new lyrics to the “Buy The World A Coke” song.

“I’d like to buy the world a drink that doesn’t cause disease,” the song goes. “I’d like to teach the world about what sugar did to me.”

Although CSPI certainly targets Coca-Cola in its new version of the ad, other soda makers weren’t left out. A scene featuring large cups of soda with words such as obesity and weight gain scrawled on them feature logos for other sugary-drink companies, including Pepsi.

“Soda is just one of several contributors to diet-related disease, but it’s a major one,” Dr. Jeffry Gerber, a Denver-area physician who appeared in the film, says in a statement. “I see the connection between soda consumption and chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity every day of the week. It’s hard to ask patients to practice moderation when all of the advertising, marketing, and overall ubiquity of soda rewires people to overconsume sugary drinks.”

The new ad will be featured in several languages and provided as a resource to health advocates around the world where Coke and Pepsi sell their products, CSPI says.

In recent years, there has been an increased push by health groups such as CSPI, government officials and regulatory entities to reduce the amount of sugary calories consumed in soft drinks.

Back in 2013, CSPI called on the Food & Drug Administration to limit the amount of sugar in soft drinks and other sweetened beverages.

“As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption,” CSPI executive director Jacobson said at the time. “Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease.”

Other regulatory proposals included former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to limit the size of soda containers. That plan was met with fierce disapproval and required many court appeals before essentially being quashed last summer.

Across the country in California a bill that would require warning labels on sugary drinks was discussed in San Francisco earlier this month. And another California city, Berkeley, became the first in the nation to approve a tax on sugary drinks last November.

We’ve reached out to Coca-Cola for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

Health Advocates Remake Famous “Hilltop” Ad
[Center For Science In The Public Interest]