SBD/February 3, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Consumer Group Asks FTC To Take Action Over "Misleading" Vitaminwater Ads

Coca-Cola says Vitaminwater ads are meant to be funny
The DC-based National Consumers League has filed a formal complaint with the FTC claiming ads for Coca-Cola's Vitaminwater brand that suggest it can replace flu shots or prevent illness are "dangerously misleading," according to Jeremiah McWilliams of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. The NCL indicated that "stopping Vitaminwater's claims about warding off the flu and boosting the immune system should be a top priority" for the FTC. One label on a Vitaminwater bottle reads, "vitamins + water = all you need." Also, a display reads "flu shots are so last year" and promises more immunity and "less snotty tissues." But Coca-Cola has acknowledged that the ads are "meant to be funny." Beverage Digest Editor John Sicher said that "most consumers are intelligent enough to know that ads claiming flu shots are unnecessary shouldn't be taken literally." However, McWilliams reports the NCL "wants Coca-Cola to pay for a round of corrective advertising to encourage people to take their flu shots." NCL Exec Dir Sally Greenberg said that the company's argument that the ads are "supposed to be taken with a wink is 'totally unacceptable'" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/3).
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