“We are… chairs. And now it’s time to conquer you.”
“What if we stand up?” is the message in a new ad for Coca-Cola, part of the soda maker’s “4 commitments to fight overweight and sedentary lifestyle” campaign and part of Coke’s larger push to get out ahead of the negative “sugary drinks” PR wave. By breaking the message that connected the Coke brand to “the problem,” it’s a departure from the brand’s previous “obesity” messaging.
Coke’s first round of ads were about “coming together” and held that the brand had a very active role to play in the drive to promote health, like putting calorie information on its cans to posting messages about counting calories on its vending machines. Cynics reacted as cynics always react, but to Coke’s benefit, doing “sincerity” in a post-modern communications environment is difficult and the brand deserves some credit. Its follow up message—“Be Ok”—may have been a lot of spin about “happy calories,” but the brand was basically saying, “If you drink a can of Coke you should exercise.” That is not the brand message any soda company wants to necessarily make.
That’s why the Spanish “Chairs” spot is worrisome.
A spokesperson for Publicis Spain, the ad’s creators, told brandchannel, “The goal was to open the discussion with the society about the sedentary lifestyle problem. Some studies show that people spend more than half of their lives seated and that was the inspiration for the idea. Since the insight is human and universal the campaign can be used in future in other countries, depending on Coke Worldwide’s decision.”
But in “Chairs,” gone is Coke’s role in promoting health. Sure, it’s meant to be funny but the substituted message is about how it’s the consumer’s fault for sitting down so much. Coke is implying that its a third, disintereted party and that consumers should take it up with their chairs (which, really, is another way of saying consumers should take it up with themselves).
Publicis Spain says, no, that it’s “just one piece of a bigger campaign.” The agency told us that a second film will debut in April “with more focus on solutions” and “a web platform to promote commitments to fight obesity and sedentary lifestyle.”
On its own, the ad is just that, one ad (and one for Spain at that), but it could also signal a clandestine phasing out of Coke’s role in increasing health and the tying of the Coke brand to “a problem,” a messaging connection the brand certainly never wanted to make in the first place.