Soda-drinking polar bears go viral, cola companies angry

Cuddly characters take aim at the soft-drink industry

What would happen if polar bears really drank cola? A video campaign created by pro-health lobby group The Centre for Science in the Public Interest is asking just that, and the results aren’t pretty.

In the video, a family of polar bears drink soda after soda as family members gain weight and become increasingly sedentary. Momma bear’s teeth fall out. Daddy bear gets diabetes (and the related symptom of erectile dysfunction) and eventually has his limb amputated by a chainsaw-wielding fox doctor.

All this happens to the tune of an upbeat song called “Sugar,” which was created just for the video by singer Jason Mraz.

While the video doesn’t actually mention Coca-Cola by name, the soft-drink company has used polar bears in its marketing since 1922, writes NY Daily News. The video also debunks direct quotes from Coca-Cola executives and subjects the bears to the slogan “Be Happy,” a knock at Coca-Cola’s Open Happiness campaign.

Of course, cola companies are rather unimpressed with what they see as an attack on their product.

Ad Age reports that, in an email, Coke spokeswoman Susan Stribling said: “This is irresponsible and the usual grandstanding from CSPI. It won’t help anyone understand energy balance, which is key according to recognized experts who’ve studied this issue—a group that, by default, doesn’t include CSPI. Enough said.”

This isn’t the first time the ad’s creator, Alex Bogusky, has gone up against food industry giants. In September, he gave $100,000 to a California campaign supporting a bill that would require food companies to label for the use of any genetically modified products. Opponents of the bill included PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca Cola Co. and Conagra, reports Ad Age.

It’s part of a change of heart for the star advertiser, who once worked for companies including Burger King, Dominos and even Coke, but has shifted to more socially minded projects in the last two years. In an interview with USA Today, Bogusky said he doesn’t have a problem with soft drinks, in moderation, but the problem is that people view pop as a beverage, rather than the candy it really is. “When consumed in small portions, it’s not a problem,” Bogusky tells USA Today. “But in huge quantities, it is. I call it portion distortion. When we have small, medium and large that are all too big, people gravitate to the middle.”

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