The Horizon Foundation earlier this week launched a new television ad campaign calling on Coca-Cola to help fight childhood obesity.
Starting next week, the $40,000 campaign will hit the air, with 30- and 90-second advertisements playing on broadcasts and cable networks through the Baltimore region during the months of October and November.
"While Coca-Cola produces scores of healthy beverages, it spends over two-thirds of its marketing budget promoting sugary drinks," said Horizon Foundation President and CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick. "We're asking Coke, and all other beverage companies, to work with us — not against us — and invest in the long-term health of their customers by promoting their better, healthier beverages."
The television ad features people convincing others to swap out their sugary drinks for healthier options, and includes the tagline: "Happiness doesn't come in a red can. Obesity does."
The advertisements promote the foundation's initiative Howard County Unsweetened and the Better Beverage Finder, an online tool designed to help people find low- or no-sugar drinks.
The campaign was announced Tuesday, Oct. 22, by the foundation and its partners, including MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, the American Heart Association and People Acting Together in Howard (PATH).
"Coke is the industry leader," said the Rev. Robert Turner, co-chair of PATH. "It can find a better way. Coke can redeem itself. So today, the faith community asks Coca-Cola to flip its advertising and promote drinks that are healthier for children and their families."
In response to the ad campaign, Ellen Valentino, Executive Vice President, Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association said in a statement:
"You can be healthy and enjoy a soft drink as part of a balanced lifestyle. We look at this as a missed opportunity. Singling out one product is clearly the wrong message to send. Our industry is leading on solutions to obesity. We're doing our part, and we are pleased to be at the table with some of the nation's foremost thought leaders.
"We are working with First Lady Michele Obama to label our products with the full calorie count right up front. With former President Bill Clinton we removed regular soda from schools — and cut calories available from beverages in schools by 90 percent. We're also working with governors and mayors across the country to offer meaningful solutions to obesity."
Brian Alvin, immediate past president of MedChi, said that in order for the health care community to promote healthier choices in schools and communities, "we need to educate the public and obtain the cooperation and support from corporate America." The doctors of Maryland, Alvin said, are giving beverage companies like Coca-Cola a "prescription for change.
"Change your current marketing approach," he said. "Advertise your healthier drinks and not the beverages that lead to diabetes, obesity and hypertension."