Usually, as an advertising person considers advertising anything, they think about how they personally feel about that product. Or, in this case, when you advertise against something, you still consider how you feel and what kind of relationship you have had with that product.
When CSPI Mike Jacobsen approached me to create work with the goal of changing the cultural conversation around soda I was just finishing off a 32oz. Big Gulp. Not actually, but I've never been militant about soda either. Like a lot of people, I really like one from time to time.
Mike and CSPI have been long-time food activists and he is responsible not just for coining the term "junk food" but for much of the ingredient labeling we take for granted on the back of the products we buy today. This guy is the real deal and he has been trying to wake us up to the costs of sugar in our diets for a long, long time.
I'm actually one of those people that has removed High Fructose Corn Sweetener (HFCS) from my diet but I don't worry too much about traditional cane sugar. Mike is a scientist first and foremost and his position is all sugar is the same. I'll take a wait and see approach, but by avoiding HFCS, which is in almost all packaged food today, my sugar (fructose) consumption is way, way, way down. It's been a good thing.
Years ago before we concieved of the TRUTH campaign to reduce teen tobacco consumption I had the same questions about tobacco that I have about soda today. At the time many of my friends smoked and so I felt compelled to create something that told the truth about tobacco and the tobacco industry but avoided attacking the smoker. Part of our brand values were that TRUTH didn't care if you smoked. We just wanted you to know the truth. Period. That pretty much mirrors my attitude with soda. I never was a smoker but I've had and enjoyed plenty of pop. I even worked on advertising for diet soda. Today I avoid the HFCS stuff but I love an occasional Clementine Izze or the Cokes that get imported from Mexico made with cane sugar. The key word is "occassional." Soda was never meant to be an everyday beverage.
So why work for CSPI? Because as a society our increase in sugar consumption has been monumental and it is making us sick and soda is the number one contributor in raw calories. This is a problem we need to figure out because although you might decide to opt out of drinking soda you can't opt out of what is happening to your friends and neighbors and country. You can't opt out of a healthcare system that is collapsing under the costs we ALL pay in taxes to treat runaway obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
The costs that an industry passes on to you when they do business are called "externalized" costs. What that means is that in the course of them doing business things happen around that business but they don't have to pay those costs. Lung cancer was and maybe to some degree still is an externalized cost of the tobacco companies doing business as usual. When used as directed a large number of their customers wound up in hospitals undergoing treatments and care that they often could not afford. That cost of business was passed onto the taxpayer and state government. Eventually, the states realized how much this was costing and they began to educate citizens, tax the tobacco companies, regulate their advertising, and, finally, sue them to recoup the billions the states had spent to essentially subsidize the tobacco companies way of doing business.
With soda, we are probably in the very early stages of a similar realization. When used as suggested by the packaging and the marketing, people drink dangerous amounts of liquid sugar/soda and become so sick that they go into the healthcare system where we all pay with our tax dollars to work to repair their damaged bodies. Each one of us is paying for Big Soda to do business the way that they are doing it. Either paying with our health, our kids health, or our wallets getting lighter to pay the taxes to prop up an overburdened healthcare system. Our wallets might be the only thing getting lighter unfortunately. It's bad. And it's not just doctors, food activists and epidemiologists that are concerned. Our military has begun to sound the alarm because we are too obese to fight. In fact, they can no longer get an average 18 year old American into shape during basic training. There's not enough time to do it. Our addiction to sugar is a matter of national security.
Now Big Soda suggests that they never advertise to children as part of being responsible advertisers. So why do they have cartoon bears? It reminds me a lot of when the tobacco companies suggested that they would never advertise to children yet Joe Camel was about as well known with children as Mickey Mouse at the time. There's a big sculpture of a polar bear holding a soda at a ski resort near where I live. And I almost never see grownups crawling all over that thing. Guess they missed the mark.
We are at the beginning of a massive cultural shift and our food is at the center of it all. I believe there is a healthier future ahead if we just keep the dialog going.
Hard to know what The Real Bears can contribute to a more open and realistic cultural conversation about Soda, sugar or even HFCS. Yet that remains our sincerest hope for the project - to make a sweet world even sweeter.
A great many people spent a lot of their talent and time to produce a 3 minute labor of love. These folks make a sweet world, even sweeter. Mike Jacobson (vision), Jason Mraz (music and love), Lucas Zanotto (animation), Amanda Fox (production grit), Jeff Cronin (guidance), Todd Putmin (mentor), Mark Eckhart (glue), Adam Butler (creative), Marty Butler (creative/production), Stefanie Hermsdorf (design/rocket fuel), Ronny Northrop (lead creative/writing), Ryan Kutchner (creative/writer), and Cyrus Clemensen (digital guru) Let me know if I missed anybody and I'll add the name ASAP.