September 1st, 2011

CSPI 'Campaign' Targets Sugary Beverages

Advertising Age

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is teaming up with city health departments and several health groups on a new campaign, “Life’s Sweeter with Fewer Sugary Drinks.” The only problem? The campaign isn’t really a campaign at all.

Dr. Michael Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, said that there are no plans for any actual media, because the group doesn’t have the money. For now, the campaign consists of a website,, which urges people to sign up for the “challenge” to limit sugary drinks. The site sells branded clothing, coffee mugs, aprons and earrings, among other items.

The announcement of the campaign is simply meant to rally organizations and companies and get “real buy in,” Dr. Jacobson said during a conference call with reporters. CSPI is looking for those groups to limit or eliminate sugary drinks from vending machines, cafeterias and meeting facilities, as well as offer preferential pricing for healthier options. The next step will be to plan a conference to bring the disparate organizations together to learn more about the issue, develop strategies and determine what can be done to “make some real progress,” Dr. Jacobson said.

Because nothing says rallying cry like a conference.

In the meantime, Los Angeles and Boston will be mounting anti-sugary drink campaigns of their own—these will actually include ads—which are meant to run parallel to the CSPI effort. Los Angeles will have ads out this fall that ask, “If you wouldn’t eat 22 packs of sugar, why would you drink it?” and Boston will have ads targeting parents with the message that their kids are already “sweet enough” without sugary beverages.

“We’re building a movement to reject the slick advertising campaigns of the beverage companies,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Boston’s health commissioner, during a conference call with reporters.

“We want to reposition [soda] to be that occasional treat, so that if [a child] asks for a soda, it’s somewhat strange, because it’s not good for their health,” Dr. Jacobson added.

A spokesman for the American Beverage Association highlighted the group’s Clear on Calories initiative and School Beverage Guidelines, in response to CSPI’s “Life’s Sweeter” campaign. He added that it’s focused on “substantive solutions” while CSPI is focused on “sound bites.”

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