Coke, Pepsi, ABA Join Forces to Fight NYC Anti-Soft Drink Ads

It appears that the beverage industry’s top soda manufacturers are having a Howard Beale moment. Tired and frustrated by New York City’s longstanding ad campaign linking soft drinks to obesity, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore! According to Bloomberg News (irony!), Coke and Pepsi have been working with the American Beverage Association (ABA), the industry’s advocacy group, to roll out a new ad campaign in NYC subways that touts new lower-calorie beverages and smaller package sizes to show that industry is doing its part in the fight against obesity.

For the past several years, NYC health officials have hammered away at sugary drinks, warning that the extra calories from the beverages could lead to a variety of problems including diabetes and heart disease. The city has blanketed bus stops and subways with a number of visually graphic ads including one that depicts a cloud of sugar transforming into lumps of fat on a beverage container along with the tagline, “Are you Pouring on the Pounds?”

The beverage industry is now pushing back with its ad campaign. One ad shows workers for Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Sunny Delight standing side-by-side pushing hand trucks full of sodas, juices, sports drinks and waters, and a tagline that states, “More Choices. Smaller Portions. Fewer Calories. America’s beverage companies are delivering.” The ads began to run in February and similar to other pro-industry campaigns of recent years.

Although the ABA stated that its new ad campaign was not a direct counter to that of the city’s, Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said that NYC’s campaign against sugary drinks is “discriminatory and singles out one product out of an array of foods and beverages.”

“We need to do our part to address obesity and that’s what we are doing,” Gindlesperger told Bloomberg. He cited the industry’s work to create clearer calorie counts on the front of beverage containers and labels and the removal of full-calorie soft drinks from schools in 2006.