Vigor, Brain Power And Other Health Claims From Coke's Advertising Past | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Vigor, Brain Power And Other Health Claims From Coke's Advertising Past

Coca-Cola is taking a lot of flak for its new television ad campaign addressing America's obesity epidemic – an epidemic in which sugary sodas are widely fingered as a key culprit.

Launched last week, the ads discuss the beverage giant's efforts to combat obesity, while also insisting that Coke products can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Those claims have been met with widespread skepticism and ridicule from public health advocates and the advertising world alike, with words like "shameless" and "chutzpah" bandied about. As one satirical parody video of one of the new ads put it bluntly: "Don't drink Coke – it's killing you, and your family."

All this debate over the truthiness of Coca-Cola's new anti-obesity message reminded us that, more than a century ago, the company actually branded itself a maker of "medicinal tonic." Let's go back in time for a moment, shall we?

This 1907 magazine ad states that Coke "relieves fatigue without undue stimulation [and] aids digestion. Its use after exercise is especially healthful."

... And during exercise, too, apparently. (Golf, anyone?)

Other ads promised Coca-Cola would have the power to revitalize both the mind and body.

Studying? Shopping? Sight-seeing? Coke offered to "revive and refresh" and relieve your fatigue.

But perhaps the most disturbing claim, at least to our modern minds, comes from this vintage ad not for Coca-Cola but its forebear, Vin Mariani – a Bordeaux wine containing six milligrams of cocaine per fluid ounce. (That's one way to get a baby to sleep through the night.)

In his unauthorized history of the company, For God, Country and Coca-Cola, author Mark Pendergrast recounts that Coca-Cola inventor John Pemberton released his famous drink in 1886 as a nonalcoholic beverage inspired by this coca wine.

In comparison to these old ads, the health claims in Coca-Cola's new anti-obesity ad campaign seem almost harmless. (OK, plenty of food advocates would beg to differ.)

One of the new advertisements focuses on outlining the ways in which Coca-Cola is helping people consume in moderation, including creating "portion control"-sized cans and adding easy-to-find calorie labels.

But Coca-Cola advertising hasn't completely lost its sense of the ridiculous, as evidenced in this second new ad, which presents viewers with fun, easy ways to burn off the 140 "happy" calories in a can of Coke. Among the suggestions? Laugh out loud! Do a victory dance!

I did the math, and by my calculations, you'd have to laugh for about two hours to burn off one can of Coke. So better get chuckling! Excuse me while I go cue up that Scottie pinwheel video.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Punch Line In The U.S., Christmas Fruitcake Is Big In Calcutta

Seen as indestructible in the West, fruitcakes are indispensable in the bustling Hindu city. Bakers of all faiths have the ovens running round the clock to feed Calcutta's appetite for the cakes.
NPR

Inside The Indiana Megadairy Making Coca-Cola's New Milk

Coca-Cola got a lot of attention in November when it announced it was going into the milk business. In fact, its extra-nutritious milk product was invented by some dairy farmers in Indiana.
NPR

Nevada Congressman's Loss Exposed Raw Nerve In Democratic Caucus

One of the most unexpected Democratic losers on Election Day was Rep. Steven Horsford from Nevada. His defeat is about politics, but also about race.
NPR

2014 Hashtags: #BringBackOurGirls Made Nigerian Schoolgirls All Of 'Ours'

As part of a series on hashtag activism in 2014, Audie Cornish speaks with Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Open Society Foundation. Ezekwesili was one of the early promoters of the hashtag #bringbackourgirls, about schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria in April.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.