Soda Lobby’s Back-to-School PR Campaign

As reported on September 7 by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution (Soft drink makers start PR offensive), the American Beverage Association has launched a new $10 million ad campaign claiming its members care about children’s health. (You can view the three print ads on the ABA website.)

You might recall the this same illustrious lobbying organization back in May, along with the major soda makers, signed an “agreement” with the Clinton Foundation to sell allegedly more healthful beverages in schools. (See my May newsletter for complete rant.)

But just in case you forgot, the big three, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Cadbury Schweppes, are spending big bucks to remind you, with full-page ads in major newspapers and magazines. The Journal-Constitution has is exactly right: “The goal is to win over policy-makers, educators and parents.”

As ABA’s president Susan Neely explains, apparently, the big media splash before the summer didn’t quite take hold: “A lot of the country wasn’t focused on it. The need for education is the biggest thing.” Of course, “education” in the form of an industry public relations campaign that omits the minor detail that any changes are completely voluntary and are up to the schools to initiate. Finally, the article notes that “if the campaign is deemed successful, the industry might use more ads in the future.” I know a few schools that would be happier if Coke and Pepsi redirected that PR money toward actual education efforts.

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