BALTIMORE: The Horizon Foundation is kicking off a phase of its Howard County Unsweetened campaign that aims to raise awareness about the dangers of sugary drinks in municipalities outside Baltimore.
The effort is asking that Coca-Cola change its course by no longer using two-thirds of its marketing budget to promote consumption of sugary drinks versus its healthier options, arguing that its current practices contribute to the obesity epidemic.
The centerpiece of the effort is a TV ad that takes on Coca-Cola's marketing tactics, which will be unveiled on Tuesday. The agency SalterMitchell is providing PR support for the effort, including media outreach, grassroots organization for a street team, and supporting the Better Choices Coalition, a group created as part of the campaign to push for policy changes on sugary drinks.
Peter Mitchell, the firm's co-founder, said he hopes the campaign will “poke some holes in some of the PR points [Coca-Cola] has made, such as that all calories are the same. That simply isn't true.”
For the Horizon Foundation, a key metric of success will be seeing if some places in the county have more healthy drink options, according to Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of Horizon.
Groups such as the Maryland State Medical Society, which is supporting the campaign financially, plan to take key messages of the effort statewide through talks given by its members at schools and other public venues, said Brian Avin, immediate past president of the group.
“Health problems we were seeing in much older people as the result of obesity are beginning to happen more frequently in younger people in the last 30 years,” Avin said. “What we're looking to do is create behavior change.”
Earlier this year, Coca-Cola launched an anti-obesity campaign as it seeks to become a stronger voice on the issue.
Sarah Cannon, director of public affairs and communications at Coca-Cola, declined to confirm the two-thirds ad spending breakdown for proprietary reasons.
“We disagree; weight gain results from taking in more calories than what you're burning, and we offer our customers low-calorie options,” she said. “We believe in giving consumers a choice in the products we offer. We have more than 180 no- or low-calorie options.”This story was updated on October 21 with quotes from Cannon.