Coke incurs wrath of ACCC for misleading “myth-busting” ads

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 2nd April 2009

Action undertaken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will see Coca-Cola publish corrective advertisements in newspapers across the country about its ‘myth-busting’ campaign.

“The ACCC has accepted court-enforceable undertakings from Coca-Cola South Pacific Pty Ltd (CCSP)*, about statements published in Coca-Cola’s Kerry Armstrong on Motherhood & Myth-Busting advertisement,” ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, explained today.

On 11 October 2008, Coca-Cola published an advertisement called Kerry Armstrong on Motherhood and Myth-busting, which referred to busting a number of myths about Coke.

The advertisement claimed suggestions that Coke rotted teeth, made you fat and was packed with caffeine were merely myths.

On 18 October 2008, Coca-Cola published a further advertisement entitled ‘To all our Customers’ which, in relation to the advertisement said: “…we felt it was time to state the facts and to help you understand the truth behind Coca-Cola.”

The ACCC concluded that the advertisements had the potential to mislead consumers by implying that:

* Coca-Cola could not contribute to weight gain and obesity
* Coca-Cola could not contribute to tooth decay
* 250ml of the Coca-Cola product bearing the brand Diet Coca-Cola contains one half of the amount of caffeine as that contained in 250ml of tea, and
* a responsible parent can include Coca-Cola in a family diet without any regard whatsoever to the potential for weight gain or tooth decay arising from consuming Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola has been working with the ACCC to address concerns, Mr Samuel advised, and has agreed to:

* publish a corrective advertisement in; The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Courier Mail, Adelaide Advertiser, The West Australian, and the Hobart Mercury;
* publish a corrective advertisement for a period of 28 days on;
* publish for six months on the correct levels of caffeine for Coca-Cola, Diet Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero and compare this with the levels of caffeine in the same amounts of tea brewed from leaf or teabag and instant coffee, and;
* implement a trade practices law compliance review.

“After seeing the Myth Busting campaign the ACCC was immediately concerned about the misleading messages it was likely to send to consumers and in particular, to mothers who are often the decision makers about family nutrition,” Mr Samuel said.

“Coke’s messages were totally unacceptable, creating an impression which is likely to mislead that Coca-Cola cannot contribute to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay. They also had the potential to mislead parents about the potential consequences of consuming Coca Cola,” he concluded.

The Coke ads had previously been given the all clear by the Advertising Standards Bureau in November after several complaints were made.

Coca-Cola South Pacific Pty Ltd (Coca-Cola) is responsible for marketing and technical services for the Coca-Cola beverage products within Australia.