ANA Annual Meeting 2012

Coca-Cola Exec Steers Clear of Inflammatory Video During ANA Remarks

'The Real Bears' Has 650,000 Views After Two-and-a-Half Days

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Coca-Cola North America's top marketer took to the stage at ANA's Masters of Marketing conference -- and steered clear of addressing

Allison Lewis
Allison Lewis Credit: Photo by Brian Bazala/Clarion Pictures

Earlier this week the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group based in Washington, released a video created by Alex Bogusky that takes on soda companies, specifically Coca-Cola. Throughout the video, an adorable white polar bear family that resembles the bears associated with the Coca-Cola brand guzzle soda, resulting in many ill effects. As of midday Friday, it counted just shy of 650,000 views.

During her presentation, Alison Lewis, senior VP-Coca-Cola North America marketing, did not reference the video or directly address the attacks the industry has been facing in recent months and years regarding health and obesity concerns. She did, however, sum up one of the unique challenges the company faces: "The important thing about Coca-Cola is that the brand Coca-Cola is the company and the company is the brand. That's challenging at times, but it is our reality."

Ms. Lewis focused her presentation on discussing the company's journey over the last seven years. During that time, Coca-Cola has streamlined design and packaging elements, innovated packaging and fountain machines and embraced social media and second screen experiences.

"Marketing innovation is a must-have to drive brand relevancy and business growth," Ms. Lewis said. "We came up with a revitalization framework. ... People have fallen back in love with Coca-Cola."

Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola's president-sparkling beverages North America, was scheduled to appear with Ms. Lewis but did not attend the conference. A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said Ms. Bayne had another commitment and that the presentation worked better with just one executive.

Ms. Bayne is one of several executives whose comments are being attacked by CSPI on site. For example, a quote from Ms. Bayne stating that "there is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity" is accompanied by the word "lie" in bold letters. Adjacent to that are statements such as "Truth: Drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases your risk for Type 2 diabetes by 25%" and "Diabetes can lead to erectile dysfunction."

In an email, Coke spokeswoman Susan Stribling told Ad Age : "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."