Coca-Cola wants to join the global fight against obesity. No, really. CEO Muhtar Kent announced: “We want to be part of the solution” and spoke of plans to place calorie counts more visibly, stop targeting the under-12s with advertising and promote exercise and active lifestyles.
That last one sounds intriguing – I expect to see virals in real time, showing an obese character (Mr Fizz?) jogging for entire days. Along the bottom, a tickertape could read: “If, like this man, you can’t be bothered to read our labels, drink Diet Coke, Coke Zero, or any of our other delicious artificially sweetened drinks. Or Sprite, now sweetened in the UK, not with aspartame, but with a ‘natural sweetener’ derived from the plant stevia. Did you hear us say ‘natural’? Did we mention that stevia is a plant – a real plant, green, with leaves, and everything? Great isn’t it! (Disclaimer: don’t worry too much about the ‘derived’ bit or that our other diet products use aspartame).”
Mr Fizz could bump into his friends, Miss Insulin Spikes and Mr Pre-Diabetic, and they could snack on giant doughnuts, thus illustrating Coca-Cola’s point (made in its recent “Coming Together” advert) that it is overall calories that count, not just fizzy drinks. In the spirit of public service, I’m going to offer up Mr Fizz and friends for free, in the hope that Coca-Cola can achieve its aims. Hats in the air! Job done! Though sadly not really. Where global obesity is concerned, how can a company peddling one of the most significant contributory factors ever be part of the solution?
Why do companies such as Coca-Cola bother trying to be health-conscious? Clearly, it is trying (let’s admit that). Let’s also acknowledge that Coca-Cola is not the only sugary drinks manufacturer out there, just the most successful. However, the game’s up. It’s now extensively documented that these drinks, even some “healthy fruit juices”, can have devastating effects on people’s weight. Many people are shown to have more problems with such drinks than with food, sometimes without other factors involved. Add to this the fact that sweeteners in diet drinks are increasingly controversial, and sales of bottled water (relatively non-profitable) are rising, and it’s a brand nightmare.
You could almost feel sorry for them. It’s reminiscent of the aftermath of Morgan Spurlock‘s Super Size Me when McDonald’s went into a health-conscious frenzy, painting restaurants green and inserting salads on to its menus. Few people wanting a salad would go to McDonalds, but never mind – at least it was trying, “responding”, whatever companies call it, when they realise that a public mea culpa (sort of) is their best option, as they wait for another brand to get Spurlocked and divert the attention away from them.
Which is what seems to be happening to Coca-Cola. In recent times, the company, and similar brands, has been Spurlocked. This time, it’s not by just one man scarfing meal-deals, but people becoming concerned about sugary drinks generally. What’s more, with Coca-Cola, it is the core product that’s the problem. It’s not labelling (they already have labelling), and it’s not encouraging active lifestyles (who looks to a drinks company for exercise tips?). Nor could Coca-Cola hurriedly shove some salad into the can to make it “healthier”.
To engage properly with the obesity debate, Coca-Cola would have to slag off the vast majority of its own products. Instead, it talks about diet ranges, exercise, overall calorie counts et al. It could be seen as its version of the McDonald’s green-painted restaurants – responsibly “responding” to public concern, while it waits for something else to get Spurlocked. The more sceptical might say that Coca-Cola can want all it likes, when it comes to being part of the solution. While it was opportune for the company to join the fight against global obesity, it’s also thoroughly farcical.
It’s not Glasto‘s prices that suck, it’s the glampers
Ah, British music festivals. You wade around in mud, watching bands you can’t see or hear, taking fake drugs, drinking beer that smells of roadie wee, surrounded by people who think “wild” is wearing wet socks a couple of days in a row, and shouting “Gerrof!’ at Mumford & Sons.Music festivals suck, and always have done, but don’t worry, because you probably can’t afford to go anyway.
A survey by the moneysaving website Watch My Wallet says British music festivals such as Glastonbury or Isle of Wight have nearly doubled in price in the past decade, and that some people now prefer festivals in such countries as Poland or Croatia. British high prices particularly exclude teenagers, as well as “seasoned festivalgoers” (translation: prancing loser-hippies in jester hats).
Good riddance, prancing loser-hippies! Unfortunately, they’ve been replaced by the repellent glampers, those hedge-fund, high-roller types who “glamp” in five-star teepees, “slumming it” in Hunter wellies – barbecuing prawns, drinking prosecco and probably still wearing moronic jester hats (“Oh Xavier, you’re so ironic!”) No wonder people are decamping to far-flung festivals. It’s their best chance of avoiding the glampers.
Take me down that street of shame
Piers Morgan, former Daily Mirror editor, now CNN chatshow host, is executive-producing a new US television series about British tabloid journalism. The pilot episode will be written by Danny Brocklehurst (Shameless) and set in the 1970s. Which is handy – all safely tucked away in the past, away from all the phone-hacking/Leveson unpleasantness. Like your thinking, Piers (wink).
A drama about us beauteous (inside and out) journalists – what a rare treat. How often does the media get to be navel-gazing and self-referential to an absurd and nauseating degree? “All the time!” you cry? Silence, haters!
I’m picturing a journo Life on Mars vibe, with squalid lunchtime piss-ups that last for weeks and ballooning expense accounts that could make a Russian oligarch weep. Perhaps with some debonair editor character, mysteriously also called “Piers”, who’s initially sneered at for his big girl’s blouse name, and for starting on the showbiz pages, but ends up winning over the hardened hacks with his gritty charisma, offset by a gentle self-deprecating charm…
It’s going to be a difficult wait. Less happily, there’s some “artistic confusion” that needs urgent clarification. Morgan says that it would be about “ruthless, amoral” 1970s journalists “drinking, brawling, fornicating, night-clubbing and cocaine-snorting”. Which, from what I’ve heard, sounds a bit like journalism in the 1990s, or, for that matter, journalism in the Noughties, or indeed… journalism.
Hence the artistic confusion. I’m still looking forward to Fleet Street, but perhaps Morgan could explain why I’m feeling this strange sense of over-identification with the journalists of the 1970s, particularly as he has specifically selected them as the most appalling disreputable hacks ever.
By the way, Piers, when it comes to casting, Hugh Grant says he’s busy.