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Published: Friday, 1/18/2013

The real thing

Coca-Cola became one of the world’s biggest companies by selling sugary drinks with empty calories. As its bottom line grew, so did customers’ waistlines.

A can of Coke has 140 calories. Because people who love Coke can be counted on to drink more than one can a day, it isn’t hard to infer its contribution to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

Coca-Cola surely isn’t the sole reason Americans are overweight. Still, the product’s marketers are rolling out a slick ad campaign to respond to criticism from nutritionists and others.

The ads, which launched on cable TV this week, encourage exercise and consumption of the company’s lower-calorie drinks as options to traditional Coke. By encouraging moderation, the company hopes to be seen as a partner in solving America’s weight problem.

At the same time, though, Coca-Cola continues to advertise its flagship product aggressively. It spends $1 billion a year on its global ad campaigns. So while one hand is raised in caution to Americans, proposing healthy habits — the other hand is offering an ice-cold, 140-calorie Coke.

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