Coca-Cola and Powerade called out for 'shameful marketing' to kids

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 5 December 2016

Parents have turned sour towards sugary drink ads from Coca-Cola with the drinks company taking out three 'shame' awards at the 2016 Parents' Voice Fame and Shame Awards.

Recognised in the categories Foul Sport and Pester Power, Coca-Cola beat McDonald’s in using "shameful marketing techniques" to advertise unhealthy food and drink to children.

“Parents are concerned that Coca-Cola Australia is continuing to develop marketing techniques that target children,” said Alice Pryor, campaigns mananger for Parents’ Voice.

Parents' Voice is an online network of parents that aims to improve the food and activity environments of Australian children.

Coca-Cola’s 'Brotherly Love' television commercial, part of its Taste the Feeling global campaign, took out the Pester Power award.

It features an adolescent boy and his relationship with his cool, Coke-drinking big brother. The organisation claims the ad puts a question mark over the company’s claim of not marketing directly to children. The ad attracted a number of complaints when it launched earlier this year, around issues surrounding marketing sugary drinks to children and condoning bullying - but was cleared on both fronts. 

The Foul Sport award sees Cola-Cola shamed for their Powerade Ion4 Olympic campaign. 'Hydrating Our Olympians' featured Australian Olympian and NBA star Andrew Bogut, and was judged to be the worst for sending a "misleading message" to children that consuming unhealthy products is consistent with a sporting career and healthy lifestyle.

“Parents are not happy that Australian sport is dominated by junk food and sugary drink advertising,” Pryor says.

“Watching sport, and in this case the Rio Olympics, as a family should be a time free from unhealthy influences," she adds.

Nestlé’s Milo picked up the final shame award, winning the Digital Ninja award for their Milo Champions Band. Aimed at children aged six to 12, the activity tracker syncs with Milo's Champions app and tracks activity and nutrition, leading children to believe that Milo is an integral part of healthy living despite being almost 50% sugar.

The awards also pay tribute to brands promoting healthier food and drink choices to children with Woolworths leading the charge.

Wendy Watson, nutrition program manager at Cancer Council NSW says: “In good news for Woolworths, two of its campaigns went head-to-head for the Parents’ Choice – Food fame award. In the end, their Free Fruit for Kids campaign with Jamie Oliver was a clear winner with parents, with the vote showing parents love the television commercial and the program.”

For the first time, there was a special fame category for advertisements that encourage physical activity. The Australian Government’s Girls 'Make Your Move' campaign picked up the inaugural Parents’ Choice – Physical Activity award, leaving competing ads, NAB and AFL’s Mini Legends and Woolworth’s Grown in Australia, Picked for Rio, equal runners-up.

Pryor says while there are two fame winners this year, the shame awards still outweigh the positive ads.

"It is encouraging to see more debate about the wider concerns of junk food marketing to children and its association with a rise in the consumption of unhealthy food and drink. More information and media coverage of the issues helps to equip parents with the facts, see beyond the hype and call for better regulatory guidelines and protection for their children," she says.

A Coca-Cola South Pacific spokesperson says: "Coca-Cola does not market directly to children under 12 and this is our long-standing policy. We don’t market in locations or at times where the audience is likely to contain a substantial proportion of children, and we don’t use our logos on items like clothing, toys, novelties and collectibles that children under 12 might find attractive. Nor do we promote our brands to children under 12 in schools.

"The two campaigns were clearly aimed at consumers over 12 years of age both in their content and where they featured. In fact the Advertising Standards Board conducted an independent review of the Brotherly Love commercial following a complaint. The complaint was dismissed with the ASB finding the commercial was not primarily directed to children."

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