Lost amidst the 24X7 coverage of Isis threats on Brussels and Paris, Donald Trump’s ever-more embarrassing gaffes and the build up to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was this PR gem from the Nov 25th edition of the New York Times: “Coca-Cola’s Top Scientist On Obesity is Departing.”
The headline doesn’t do justice to the story. It seems that Rhona S. Applebaum, the calorie-laden soft drink maker’s top scientist quit in the wake (fizz) of revelation that Coke was funding scientific research that played down the role of coke products in the spread of obesity!
Get this: Applebaum and Company created a non-profit group call the Global Balance Energy Network, a non-profit group that doubles as a research ruse to distract consumers from the soft drink’s heinous role in fattening up Americans. Coca-Cola invested $1.5 million in the GBEN to fund research that would “balance the debate” about soft drinks.
That’s like trying to balance the debate about global climate change, It’s here, people.
Anyway, Coke’s goal was focusing on promoting physical activity that said the GBEN “would fend off criticism about (Coke’s) product by shifting the blame for obesity to physical inactivity.”
Various emails obtained by the AP show that Muhtar Kent, Coke’s CEO wanted to enlist CBEN’s president, James O. Hill (who doubles as a University of Colorado obesity researcher) “to help shape media coverage of soft drinks.”
In other words, this whole sordid plot to pay researchers to point the finger at physical inactivity and away from soft drinks was driven by the CEO himself. Talk about unethical!
Were it not for the soft drink’s timing in the news cycle, we’d all be discussing CokeGate today.
Michael F. Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said it was concerning to see “how a major corporation is using a professor to propagate their views.” And Marion Nestle, a NYC professor and author of Soda Politics, said “The Global Energy Balance Network has been a public relations disaster for Coke.”
Here’s another PR disaster: I haven’t read a single word about this uber image and reputation scandal in any of our industry trades.
Maybe too much physical inactivity is the cause?