ATLANTA — In an advertising first for Coca-Cola, the company on Monday launched a commercial about the impact its products have on the nation's expanding waistlines.
The Atlanta-based beverage giant was on cable news networks with a new appeal to adults: moderate your sugary drink consumption, exercise and consider Coke's low- or no-calorie drink options such as Coke Zero and Dasani water.
Recent moves by cities such as New York to restrict drink sizes in restaurants and movie theaters, and continued criticism that the beverage industry is a leading culprit in America's obesity epidemic has put the company on the defensive. Another ad, the 30-second "Be OK," will reach younger consumers when it debuts during Wednesday's "American Idol" season opener.
"All calories count no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories," a narrator's soothing voice said in the two-minute "Coming Together" spot. "And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight."
Jeff Cronin, spokesman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based opponent of the soft-drink industry, said, "I think they are trying to forestall meaningful policy on sugary drinks. This is just a damage-control exercise."
The industry and its critics have been battling over the issue for more than a decade, most notably when the beverage makers agreed to remove their high-calorie drinks from the nation's schools around 2006.
But the debate continued as critics sought to slow consumption, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control, had become so large that on any given day, about half the population older than the age of 2 consumed a sugary drink.
The Coca-Cola ads up the ante of efforts they have already made to address the obesity issue and respond to changing consumer tastes. The company has 800 low- or no-calorie options, and its Coca-Cola Foundation has donated millions to organizations that promote exercise.