Saturday, October 31, 2009

'Myth-busting' Coke adverts get busted

Daniella Miletic
April 3, 2009 - 12:00AM

THE advertising industry has come under fire for failing to act on controversial claims that Coca-Cola does not make people fat or rot their teeth — claims the national consumer regulator has now ruled were "totally unacceptable".

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission yesterday ordered Coca-Cola to publish corrections in newspapers around the country over its "motherhood and myth-busting" campaign last year, which featured high-profile Australian actress Kerry Armstrong.

In the print advertisements, which ran in October last year, a smiling Ms Armstrong extolled the virtues of Coca-Cola.

"As a mum, I am often bombarded with conflicting messages about food and drinks — one day something is good for you and the next it's bad and that can be confusing … Now that I have found out what's myth and what isn't, it's good to know that our family can continue to enjoy one of our favourite drinks.

"My boys now call me mum, the myth-buster!"

When contacted by The Age yesterday, Ms Armstrong had less to say: "The campaign that I did has passed and gone and I haven't made any comment yet nor am I going to because there were things that happened that were way out of my control as well," she said.

The ACCC found the advertisements had the potential to mislead consumers by suggesting Coca-Cola could not contribute to weight gain, obesity or tooth decay.

It also ruled misleading the claim that 250ml of Diet Coca-Cola contained half the amount of caffeine as that in the same sized cup of tea. "The people in our office that looked at it … didn't have to look too closely to raise a sceptical eyebrow," ACCC boss Graeme Samuel said. "I think it was also pretty obvious to Coke. Despite their statements … they recognise that they overstepped the mark, that they had entered into the territory of misleading and deceiving consumers."

Coca-Cola South Pacific's managing director Gareth Edgecombe said in a statement that the advertisement was intended to "help balance the debate".

"We certainly did not intend our message to be misleading and we have been working with the ACCC to address its concerns," he said.

Late last year the industry-funded Advertising Standards Bureau dismissed similar complaints about the "myth-busting" campaign because, among other reasons, it did not promote "excessive consumption" and included extra detail about dental hygiene.

Health and dental groups applauded the ACCC's crackdown on the Coca-Cola campaign, while consumer advocates said it highlighted the failure of the advertising industry to effectively regulate itself.

"It just really underlined that (advertisers) are out of line with community standards," Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said. "Advertisers are the people who are meant to keep their fingers on the pulse of society, but we would argue that in terms of junk food advertising they are just way out of step."

But the advertising industry defended its standards.

"We have a very efficient self-regulatory system for advertising here where any person in the community can send a complaint to us," ASB boss Fiona Jolly said.

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/national/mythbusting-coke-adverts-get-busted-20090402-9l5e.html

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