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Groups Target Soda with Global Video Campaign

Remakes of Coke’s "Hilltop" Ad Launching in French, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish

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“Change the Tune,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s remake of Coca-Cola’s famous “Hilltop” ad, has been viewed more than 400,000 times in English and another 150,000 times in Mexico, where the video has been distributed with Spanish subtitles by a Mexican consumer group. Consumer groups and health advocates around the world are also poised to launch versions of “Change the Tune” with subtitles in FrenchHindi, Mandarin (at Youku for people in China and YouTube for outside China), and Portuguese.

The video, aimed at repositioning soda from a source of advertised happiness to a source of disease and sadness, features real people suffering from diabetes, tooth decay, weight gain, and other soda-related diseases.

“We are excited to be part of international efforts to reduce consumption of sugar drinks, which are causing diabetes, heart disease, and obesity worldwide,” said Alejandro Calvillo, director of the Mexican consumer rights organization El Poder del Consumidor. “This remake of the most famous Coca-Cola commercial in history exposes the reality and human drama of the toll of this product on people’s health, compared to the fantasy of happiness that Coca-Cola has always marketed to populations around the globe.”

According to a new study, Mexico had the highest rate of deaths related to sugar-drink consumption—about 24,000 deaths per year. That study estimated that sugar drinks are causing 184,000 deaths worldwide per year. Diabetes is the greatest cause of deaths (133,000), followed by heart disease (45,000). The United States, Indonesia, and Brazil had the next highest death rates. Even though consumption is still very low in India, the researchers estimated that sugar drinks are still causing a remarkable 10,000 deaths per year in that country.

Coca-Cola’s “Hilltop” ad first aired in 1971 in the United States and certain other countries and is certainly one of the most famous TV commercials ever broadcast. The new video has been named one of the five “latest and greatest ads worldwide” by AdForum. (A Coke ad was another one of the five).

“Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and other makers of sugar drinks are increasingly doing what tobacco companies have done—market their unhealthy products in low- and middle-income countries,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “They are spending billions of dollars in China, India, and other countries to increase sales and to distract people away from diabetes and other diseases. We thought it was time to ‘change the tune.’”

Besides El Poder del Consumidor in Mexico, nonprofit groups using the video in their campaigns to promote health are the Center for Science and Environment in India, Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor in Brazil, Coalition québécoise sur la problématique du poids in Quebec, and others.

“With companies investing billions of dollars to maximize consumption of sugary soft drinks in India, as well as other low- and middle-income countries, those nations must take steps to protect the public’s health,” according to Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi.

Soda and other sugary drinks are being consumed more and more throughout the world. Mexico, for instance, has overtaken America as the biggest consumer of sugar drinks—and as the most overweight major nation. The extra calories also increase the risks of diabetes, tooth decay, and heart disease.

“It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a senior author of the study on deaths due to sugar drinks and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).