five centavo opinions vs multi-million dollar cola drink PR campaigns


[ Here I go again pretending to address a socially relevant health issue, obesity, when the only reason I’m interested in it is because I’m already overweight and losing the battle of the bulge.  New Zealand seems to be having my problem as well, with nearly one in three New Zealanders being obese, with no letup in sight. ]

IMAGINE THE neighborhood drug dealer having an epiphany : he doesn’t want to give up his lucrative trade, but he hates it that his wares are killing so many kids (and adults) ahead of their time.

It’s particularly galling to him that a lot of the kids look up to him as a father/uncle figure, and that many of the parents used to be his clients as well.  He knows he deals in death and misery, but how does he give up his business and keep up with the mortgage, bills and his kids’ tuition?  After all, the money must come from somewhere

So he tries to meet the neighborhood halfway : He does a business makeover with his crack and weed.  From now on, instead of selling drugs by the gram, now it’s gonna be the half-gram.  Instead of stuff that’s guaranteed to space you out for 24 hours, it will do so for 12 hours.  And our reformed baddie still pushes his poison, but will also finance the drug rehab and prevention programs.  And whatever else it’ll take to assuage the king-size guilt his drug business has been generating.

If this scenario doesn’t quite grab you reality-wise, I only derive it from the most popular fizzy drink‘s recent public relations campaign in New Zealand.

Instead of “drugs” above,  just substitute it with “popular fizzy drink”.  And instead of “neighborhood drug dealer”, just use “most popular fizzy drink company“.

I’m too lazy to present counter arguments correspondingly to the main premises of the drug dealer, I mean fizzy company.  Let me just present a few random thoughts :

The company pledges to present more nutritional information regarding its products, most notably on its vending machines.  It’s good for dieters, nutritionists and health nuts, but let’s be honest.  Drink a bottle of the stuff each day and your gut will grow.  Especially if your exercise isn’t more than walking to the fridge or raising your cola glass.

The company pledges to increase the availability of small bottles like its 300 ml bottle range.  If you had a choice between Option A, two giant 2.25 L bottles costing five dollars, and Option B, a teeny-weeny miniature bottle worth roughly the same amount, value for value, which option would you take?  I rest my case.

The company pledges a wider selection of low-calorie products.  This is like telling your addict clients, instead of the full buzz that one hit of product will shoot into your head, it will only give you half a buzz.  But it’s alright, because the addict doesn’t really want the buzz.  Because the buzz is bad for the addict.  (Duh?)

The company will help people moving by supporting physical programs.  Again, this is like the drug pusher pushing his drugs and then enrolling those same addicts in a rehab program.  And then selling to the rehabbers the same drugs all over again.

It took a popular host of a nightly newsfeature program roughly 5 minutes to come up with these retorts (very similar to mine), and amazingly, the CEO of that popular fizzy drink company didn’t even disagree with her, saying nothing more than “it’s a complex issue.”

( Wonder how much that CEO gets paid to say it’s a complex issue??? Maybe it’s partially in the stuff they sell. )

I’m sorry for the drug pusher-fizzy drink analogy.  And to totally dissolve the hypocrisy, I happen to love the fizzy drink, as much as the next addict.

It’s just that, for a multi-million dollar public relations and anti-obesity campaign, I didn’t expect it to fall so easily to five-centavo opinions like mine.

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