Coca-Cola advert banned for portraying Coke as ‘meal substitute’

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Was there a sandwich or not? Pic:Getty/shaith
Was there a sandwich or not? Pic:Getty/shaith
Australia’s advertising standards board has upheld complaints against a Coca-Cola advert, for ‘portraying the drink as a suitable substitute for a meal’.

The radio advert, broadcast earlier this year, started with the sound of a stomach rumbling. A male actor asked: ‘Was that your stomach’, to which the female actor replied: ‘Yep, let’s grab a sandwich’. A voiceover said: ‘That feeling when your stomach tells you it’s lunchtime’.

The girl took a drink and said: ‘That’s better’. The advert finished with a voiceover of ‘Coca-Cola, Taste the Feeling’.

Australia’s Advertising Standards Board ruled that the overall impression was that the Coke or a cola beverage was consumed for lunch; and gave an impression that Coke was a suitable substitute for lunch. Therefore, it deemed that it undermined the promotion of a healthy balanced diet, and portrayed the beverage as a meal substitute.

Was there a sandwich or not?

Coca-Cola South Pacific said the ‘clear emphasis’ of the ad was on an entire lunchtime meal – that of a sandwich and a drink – and it had believed the commercial complied with all elements of the Code.

It says the mention of a sandwich made it clear there was food involved.

“We do not think the average listener would associate the sound of a fizzy drink being opened and the word “Coke” announced as making a suggestion that hunger pains will be solved with a Coke rather than a healthy balanced diet, especially when “grabbing a sandwich” was clearly communicated.

“The intention of the commercial, as part of the ‘Moments’ campaign, is to connect drinking a Coca-Cola with the lunch time meal. There is no intention that Coca-Cola be the only thing consumed at lunch time or a substitute for a meal, and in our opinion do not believe that such can be drawn from what is heard on the commercial.”

It adds the advert ‘in no way encourages over consumption of any of our products'. It notes also that Coca-Cola comes in four varieties: Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola with Stevia, Diet Coke and Coke No Sugar (the latter three being either no or low calorie beverages).

No longer on air

The Board noted the advertisement could be considered unclear about whether the Coke was a replacement for the sandwich, or consumed together with the sandwich.

It decided the overall impression was that the Coke had been consumed as a replacement for lunch and therefore the ad portrays the beverage as a suitable substitute for lunch.

In response to the ruling, a statement from Coca-Cola South Pacific confirms the radio ad is no longer running and that it will not be re-broadcast in the future.

“We respect, and have taken on board the findings of The Board’s decision, which will allow us to make positive adjustments to the campaign going forward.”

The Code

Section 2.8 of the AANA Food and Beverages Advertising and Marketing Communications Code states: “Advertising or Marketing Communications for Food and/or Beverage Products not intended or suitable as substitutes for meals shall not portray them as such.”

Section 2.2: “Advertising or Marketing Communications for Food or Beverage Products shall not undermine the importance of healthy or active lifestyles nor the promotion of healthy balanced diets, or encourage what would reasonably be considered as excess consumption through the representation of product/s or portion sizes disproportionate to the setting/s portrayed or by means otherwise regarded as contrary to Prevailing Community Standards.”

Related topics: Policy, Australia - New Zealand, Beverages

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