Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

The Marketing of Better-for-You Health Products in the Emergent Issue of Men's Obesity

Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

The Marketing of Better-for-You Health Products in the Emergent Issue of Men's Obesity

Article excerpt

In May 2013, Coca-Cola announced a new, four-pronged, 'global commitment' to 'help fight obesity.' This campaign involved: 'Offering low- or no-calorie beverage options in every market, providing transparent nutrition infor- mation, supporting physical activity programmes in every country where the company does busi- ness ... [and] marketing responsibly, including refraining from advertising to children under 12 anywhere in the world' (Coca Cola, 2013). The Coca-Cola campaign was widely reported in the press.

While the Coca-Cola campaign was accom- panied by a global advertising programme, this health-orientated advertising was itself new. Rather it reflected a longstanding, strate- gic investment in health-orientated advertising designed to deflect public health concerns about the adverse effects of consumption. This has been a widespread strategy employed by the soft drink industry as a whole, along with the food, indus- try and the beer industry. This article draws on research using tobacco industry documents to show how the health-orientated, better- for-you (BFY) marketing tactics employed by food and beverage industries in recent times, including the tactics employed by Coca-Cola, have followed a blueprint that was established by the tobacco industry in the 1950s through the marketing of light and/or filtered cigarettes. In other words, the 1950s history of BFY (i.e., filtered) cigarettes will be shown to have directly influenced the rise of healthier, low calorie or BFY beer and soft drink products, from the 1970s through to the present.

By establishing the direct historical correla- tion between health-orientated marketing for tobacco, alcohol (especially beer) and soft drinks, this article speaks to contemporary analyses that define the way tobacco, alcohol and obesity can and should be understood as similar kinds of health concerns. This comparison between tobacco, alcohol and/or obesity is widely evident. It is evident in the publication of edited collections that bring essays on all three subjects together under the same 'roof ' (Bell, McNaughton, & Salmon, 2011; National Preventative Health Taskforce, 2009b). It is evident in the way that all three public health concerns (tobacco, alco- hol and obesity) have been collected together and targetted within the same bureaucratic and administrative spaces. The Australian National Preventative Health Taskforce, for example, was developed in April 2008 to 'tackle the health challenges caused by tobacco, alcohol and obe- sity' (Australian Government, 2010, p. 1). The Taskforce described the issues of both obe- sity and alcohol as being 'similar to' (National Preventative Health Taskforce, 2009b, p. 51) or 'comparable to' 'tobacco smoking in ... the 1960s' (National Preventative Health Taskforce, 2009a, p. 4). Moreover, articles such as Ts Fat the Next Tobacco' (Parloff, 2003) have appeared circulated in the popular press, and an interest in the 'lessons of tobacco' has informed numer- ous scholarly articles on combating obesity (Alderman & Daynard, 2006; Blouin & Dubé, 2010; Brownell et al., 2009; Emery, Szczypka, Powell, & Chaloupka, 2007; Heymann & Goldsmith, 2011; Pennock, 2005; Sharma, Teret, & Brownell, 2010; Zefutie, 2004). In the second instance, this article, by establishing these con- nections (between tobacco, alcohol and obesity) foregrounds the possibility that health- ori- entated marketing in relation to beer and soft drinks could be legislated against in the same way as health-orientated marketing in relation to tobacco.

Within this emphasis on BFY products, this article focuses specifically on marketing health to men. The focus on male-orientated health adver- tising is exemplary, in the sense that it serves a model within which we can understand broader relationships between health oriented advertis- ing strategies amongst an ostensibly diverse col- lection of packaged goods (tobacco, beer and soft drinks). The concern with marketing health to men is also motivated by statistics identifying higher rates of obesity amongst men. …

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