New York City Soda Campaign: Gross? Yes - Controversial? Yes - Effective?

New York City is taking a proactive, outspoken role in its public health communications and is boldly developing public communications campaigns around nutrition and diet.

The current campaign shows disgusting, unadulterated, gelatinous fat substituting for soda - demonstrating that the drinks marketed to us all in the name of fun are actually loaded with empty calories. It includes multilingual communications, as well as this video (warning: it’s not pleasant):

Some might say that New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is a leader in truthful, confrontational communications too often feared by public health divisions around the nation.

Just look at their informative website (featuring a condom design contest) with its simple url:

While the city spent around $277,000 developing the campaign, a private nonprofit, Fund for Public Health New York, paid for the subway ads. The nonprofit, which has a public health institute role similar to Oregon’s Community Health Partnership, was actually founded by the NYC Department of Health to raise funds for public health issues.

Of course, not everyone is pleased.

The American Beverage Association called the campaign, “so over the top that they are counterproductive to serious efforts to address a complex issue such as obesity.”

Among the comments to the video are these:

“This video is a wonderful public service announcement and a wonderful service to Americans. Our gluttonous, soda-drinking ways need to end!”

“Finally, the state is doing something for the people and not for the corporations.”

“For those of you sanctimonious a**holes out there, you’re going to die too.

Statistics show you don’t live any longer or happier lives than anyone else! Have fun with that while you drink your 12 dollar a bottle flavorless tofu water.”

“This ad is pure propaganda. With NYC sporting 14% unemployment and thousands are facing homelessness in what many say will be an unusually cold winter, spending money on this drivel is just indefensible.”

“I’m totally showing this to my students!”

“Sugary drinks are a scapegoat. The problem is irresponsible people who ignore personal responsibility and expect a nanny state to take care of them. If Coke adds so many inches to your waist, you have far bigger lifestyle problems than drinking soda.”

“Dude, I agree with you. It is amazing how many times I see a young mother giving sugary beverage to their kids and then punish them for being hyper.”

“I’ll have what he’s having”


Viewing page 1 of 2 for comments on this post.  1 2 >
Posted by Rose on April 16th, 2013 at 09:46 PM

Thank you for providing this interesting article.I am a heavy drinker of soda and I know its bad effects on my health and a lot of people are caught complaining about its bad effects on their health but their health but the keep drink it.

Posted by Alice on April 13th, 2013 at 04:35 AM

I don’t know how much harm can do the soda juice, or other stuff like junk foods, but I must admit that I’ve seen some emergency items especially for this in my doctors special room.

Posted by Alice on March 25th, 2013 at 10:14 AM

I saw many patients with severe symptoms following abuse, some of them violent, some in a coma. One thing is clear: the chronic use of meth has some serious effects on the whole organism, not only the brain, some of these effects irreversible.We need caring people careers to help us.

Posted by Minel on March 13th, 2013 at 01:10 AM

An ignition coil kill switch is a revolutionary idea! How did you come up with it? I was looking dreamily at my Toyota the other day while putting on its car cover and thinking how I could upgrade it, now I know! You should choose a field of study.

Posted by sorin on March 10th, 2013 at 04:30 AM

I saw many patients with severe symptoms following abuse, some of them violent, some in a coma. the long term effects of met on the human brain remain to be studyed further as, from what I know, are not yet fully understud. One thing is clear: the chronic use of meth has some serious efects on the whole organism, not only the brain, some of these effects irreversible. I encourage teens with passion to perform.

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Yes Database sales are bouncing back . The market for database server software, seen as a barometer of overall software market health, grew slightly last year. Do you know what expedia means?

Posted by Craig Bieler on February 24th, 2013 at 03:43 PM

That’s a great opportunity and a real help for all entrepreneurs in Vienna. Some people stand that business plans are not necessary when you decide to be your own boss, I don’t agree, business plans are most important in many contexts.

Posted by jon Grishan on January 14th, 2013 at 09:12 AM

I think this advertisement is effective in sending their message across certain target audiences. I’ve noticed the advertisement uses the word FAT instead of UNHEALTHY when getting the point across. The ad discretely shows disgusting imagery fat consumed through out the video. Anyone who is self-conscientious of their weight would be drawn to various types of steroids. However, we should all stop drinking sodas.

Posted by Jim Bakalar on January 8th, 2013 at 03:03 PM

I was just wondering, is anybody actually willing to pay money for a signature? Because I’m sure most museums in the world have autographs of all the famous people. What’s up with that? And how do you estimate a signature’s value?

10  Posted by Gina Marconi on December 18th, 2012 at 10:17 AM

This is a very interesting post!I’ve recently watched an interview with Bradley Cohen where he talked about the influence that soda advertising has on people.People are determined to buy soda because of the attractive commercials.

11  Posted by Legalynot on September 25th, 2012 at 11:00 PM

I think that people should be informed about the dangers of drinking soda constantly. If they aren’t feeling it now then they will soon and they deserve to know what it’s all about. You know that one of the colonic irrigation benefits is that you can clean your body from all the toxins that you have from soda and bad eating problems?

12  Posted by Bill Mayer on August 6th, 2012 at 12:51 PM

Well, every country is evolving in a way or another. It’s true though that the gap between African countries and developed popular car upgrades countries is big. As for technology, we cannot compare the African continent with countries like Japan or the USA, but what’s important is that the new technologies are starting to transform life there, and little by little it will get better.

13  Posted by Laurel Parks on January 13th, 2010 at 11:13 PM

I think this ad is very effective. Even if it is a bit graphic it makes a very strong statement about health issues that can’t be ignored any longer. As the years go by eating habits have only become worse. What kind of a world would we be leaving to future generations if they don’t understand that overconsumption of junk food is directly correlated with obesity and other health complications. I think the add makes it very clear to people of every age-excessive bad nutritional choices lead to undesirable physical complications. The sooner people understand (regardless of the means by which it is presented to them) the more effectively we can promote a higher standard of heath.

14  Posted by Melinda Ingalls on January 12th, 2010 at 04:10 PM

I like the Campaign that New York is doing. Maybe having pure fat come out of a soda can is a bit over the top, but that’s obviously the levels that people are steeping to in order to get a life threatening point across. Everyone knows Soda is bad for you, but people need to know how bad it is for you. I feel like future generations will look back on our generation and mock us for treating our bodies like a walking trash can. It won’t happen over night, but the less you put soda’s in schools, and at sporting events, the less people will be consuming them.

15  Posted by Yesenia Garcia H199 on January 12th, 2010 at 12:19 AM

The way New York decided to deal with sodas and sugary substances is absurd. Of course, sodas/sugary substances are very bad for you, but from time to time everybody has a soda. It doesn’t kill you. It is a good message to get across, but obesity isn’t just caused by sodas and sugar substances, it is caused by a WHOLE wide range of different things like a persons lifestyle and the food they consume, not just soda. This commercial just makes me feel so bad about myself because I consume sodas at times.

16  Posted by Karlene Hamar on January 11th, 2010 at 10:26 PM

With so much advertising and media surrounding us all the time, everywhere we go, companies now have to go to extreme measures to get our attention and to get their message across. Most of the time we don’t think twice about the ads we are exposed to but when they make it so disturbing and unlike anything else we have ever seen we will remember it. Clearly this ad is getting to people with the reaction it has gotten and it is exactly the right message the company is hoping the public will get.

17  Posted by Danielle Alexandre on January 11th, 2010 at 07:35 AM

First off i want to aplogize for this response being so late, i had a family emergency this weekend.
I think that this ad was extremly successful in having people get the idea into their head that soda had meaningless calories and not good for you what so ever. New York is taking the necessary steps in showing the people of the United States that what they are putting into their body isn’t worth it. Yea the soda companies are upset, but they have a right to be because it is cutting back their sales. Never the less we want our nation to become a healthier place and a good example, and to achieve that this is where we need to start. Not to mention that after i saw this add, every time is saw someone drink soda i would gag because all i could imagine was the fat from this commercial. Great marketing!

18  Posted by Jessie Hanger on January 10th, 2010 at 10:55 PM

H199 Student
This is a very effective way to hopefully grasp Americas attention and our struggle with obesity. Soda is empty calories, even diet… and humanity does not understand the risk of heavy soda drinking. We as a nation struggle with cardiovascular disease as our number one killer, in which it has contributed to millions of obease Americans. Soda pop is a contributor to this obesity, while addicting as well. The commercial justifys what the product is… just a load of fat

19  Posted by Kayli Peterson on January 10th, 2010 at 05:58 PM

This is a very effective public health campaign in that it grabs the attention of the public. Whether or not the message is implemented within the private lives of the community of NYC, it does succeed in getting people to talk about the campaign and subsequently, the issue. The message is simplistic and over generalizes the obesity problem, seemingly blaming “unhealthy” drinks. It doesn’t take into account that while beverages like soda maybe “empty calories”, in moderation and part of a healthy diet, it doesn’t cause obesity.

20  Posted by Amanda Atkinson on January 10th, 2010 at 05:30 PM

If the campaign’s main goal was to make an impact, they hit the spot. This commercial is both repulsive and straight to the point which are good tactics when addressing health issues. This is such an important subject and many young adults are not informed on how bad soda is for you. I gave up soda last year and feel so much better now.

21  Posted by Stephanie Halverson on January 10th, 2010 at 01:31 PM

This video has a different method about making its point that soft drinks are bad for the human body. People are aware soda isn’t the healthiest choice however I don’t think they realize how much fat and sugar is really consumed. This video may be disturbing to some people and may be an awakening to others. I think this is an effective way to get a message across to the public.

22  Posted by Rachel Trindle on January 10th, 2010 at 01:21 PM

With such a powerful reaction this campaign proves to be effective. The controversial image definitely gets the point across at every age level, and with obesity being such a large epidemic it is necessary to reach the entire population. However, I do feel like a more effective quote/fact could have been used because not everyone drinks a soda everyday and could excuse the ad as not applicable to them.

23  Posted by Kaley Coons on January 10th, 2010 at 01:11 PM

Although this ad is quite nauseating, especially to soda drinkers like myself, I think it is extremely effective in getting the message across that by drinking soda that often we are putting fat into our body. Society seems to react more to what they see rather then what they are told so I believe this ad is a positive step in taking on the United States obesity issue. Yes, this is not the only contributor to the issue but by focusing on a specific thing like soda will allow people to acknowledge that they may be part of the target audience and hopefully will think of this message every time they have a soda. It is important to take on this fight against obesity one step at a time!

24  Posted by Laura Damas on January 10th, 2010 at 12:14 PM

I really liked this article even though it made me cringe. I never realized how much one soda can affect you.  It will definitely make me think twice before i drink soda again.  Although the video is bad for business for soda companies I believe this is something everyone should see.

25  Posted by Taylor Hunter on January 10th, 2010 at 10:26 AM

This is a great ad that will make people really think twice about how much soda they will really drink throughout a year now.  It is hard to believe that only one soda a day will really make you gain that much weight. I really like this video even though it makes me cringe as I watch the guy drink a glass of fat.

26  Posted by Karmen Holladay on January 10th, 2010 at 10:05 AM

I think this ad would be effective because not everyone understands what drinking soda can do to you.  Using a disgusting image might make people think twice about what they are putting in their mouth.  Another effective thing for the ad would maybe to put some facts about obesity, which might suprise people even more.

27  Posted by Ashley Simpson on January 9th, 2010 at 08:01 PM

The visual aspects of this ad along with the information given, I believe could have an effect on soda drinkers as far as decreasing their soda intake. However, if they are a person that chooses other healthy lifestyle choices such as regular exercise and other healthy eating habits, I do not believe they would gain that much weight from drinking a soda per day. I wonder if sugar free or diet drinks were included in this advertisement?

28  Posted by Amanda Valerio on January 9th, 2010 at 06:11 PM

Firstly, I believe that New York City’s soda campaign is very innovative and thought provoking. Many times people do not realize the amount of calories they consume daily just from liquids alone. The video was a little squirm worthy, but sometimes that is what people in order to understand just what it is they are consuming. To address other comments that discuss the fact that some people may be offended due to SES or that the city shouldn’t have to “nanny” the people: 65% of the country is overweight, so obviously they do need to be told what to drink. Milk, water, reduced sugar fruit juice are all great alternatives to soda, diet or not.

29  Posted by Kaylinn Dokken on January 9th, 2010 at 05:41 PM

While I think this ad is utilizing and interesting method to get the message across, I think there is some misrepresentation as to the message.  While the add shows that you are drinking fat, the veiwer might take this to mean that soda is loaded with fat.  However a more accurate message would be the portrayal of the calories not the fat.

30  Posted by Caitlin Macy on January 9th, 2010 at 05:09 PM

This is definitely a “shocking” approach to the issue of obesity in our culture. However, simply telling people to drink water instead of soda obviously isn’t working. Maybe shocking some sense into the public is necessary. I’m sure the soda companies are not happy about it though….

31  Posted by Kendall Distefano on January 9th, 2010 at 05:01 PM

I think that this commerical is very effective. It is short and sweet, which is able to keep people’s attention. It simpilifies the problem that America is facing but definitely brings the point across. The easy reading makes it easy with easy statistics with impacts every demographic.

32  Posted by Kayla Kretz on January 9th, 2010 at 04:04 PM

I think this video was very disturbing for many people but is exactly what is needed to get the point across. I myself am a regular soda drinker and phsyically seeing the amount of fat it adds to ones diet definitly opened up my eyes and has got me thinking twice about drinking it. I was shocked to see what it physically does to the body and although this advertisement will hurt soda companies it will do a lot more good in peoples daily lives and health decisions.

33  Posted by Lily Shorey on January 9th, 2010 at 03:50 PM

This is a very effective campaign, although it is brief it is so powerful and conveys the message well. It really makes a student think twice about drinking soda pop and sugary beverages.

34  Posted by Ashley Feeley on January 9th, 2010 at 02:51 PM

This video was vary different then what you normally see for the regular soda commercial. The video made you realize that you are drinking away your calories, which is leading to gaining weight. Many people don’t realize that that they consume more calories then they should when they grab a soda at lunch or when they are thirsty. The video made it clear that you will gain weight if you continue to drink soda. This video made it shocking and gross so the viewers would become aware of the effects of soda. This video made me gag, but has also made me think twice before consuming a bottle of soda.

35  Posted by Erin Guzy on January 9th, 2010 at 02:12 PM

I think it is about time that someone stands up for some sort of issue, whether it is drinking soda or otherwise. I am impressed that New York is taking action in hopes of bettering the health of their residents. In regards to the soda companies belittling the efforts of New York, it’s clear that they are only trying to dissuade people from believing the facts they are presenting. I think all states need to get on board in the attempts of bettering the health of the people. Obesity is an enormous problem in the United States and any positive action toward reducing it is a step in the right direction.

36  Posted by Lindsey Thompson on January 9th, 2010 at 01:22 PM

Yes I think this is a gross image, but it’s realistic which is why I think it is effective. People don’t realize that pounds they pack on by drinking soda so this should really open everyone’s eyes.

37  Posted by Jessalyn Breen on January 9th, 2010 at 12:20 PM

I honestly didn’t think the video was that gross.  I think it was just disgusting enough to get the point across, but not to the point where it would become overly offensive.  It was a pretty short video too.  I think if it had a couple more facts it would come across better to the people watching.  Some people might interpret it as too unrealistic, and not containing enough facts.

38  Posted by Mackenzie Beard on January 9th, 2010 at 11:12 AM

I found this video to be very effective in the message that they are trying to send. I feel like that may have exaggerated a little bit with the look of the soda drink, which was very disgusting, but they really got the point across. Personally, I am a soda drinker. I drink a soda here and there every once in awhile, but honestly this ad is definitely going to make me think twice before I choose a soda over some other kind of beverage. Not only is this ad saying that drinking soda is awful for your health, but it is saying that if you don’t drink soda, you won’t gain 10 pounds a year, which to some people is very inticing. I really hope that this ad makes others stop and realize what they are actually pouring into there body as they sip on a soda next time.

39  Posted by Katie Bock on January 9th, 2010 at 10:46 AM

I believe it’s completely realistic and truthful, therefore there shouldn’t be any problem with it. Factories know what they’re putting in soda, a lot of people know how much sugar is in soda, people just eirther don’t think about it or just don’t care. I think its a good honest reminder. I never thought that you could gain 10 pound from soda, although I rarely drink it but when I do I know I’m putting a lot of sugar and fat in my body. It gets to the point, although a little digusting to watch, it is what it is and people need to know the truth.

40  Posted by Anna W. on January 9th, 2010 at 08:16 AM

I think this ad definitely makes a statement. The gross-out factor of “drinking fat” is a pretty shocking image and I think because it is shocking, it gets its point across. It’s similar to when they show how many tablespoons of sugar in the soda you’re drinking. Both convey the reality or the consequence of drinking these drinks. It shows the consumer what they are putting into their bodies in a quantifiable way. I like that the ad is showing the outcome of drinking pop and offers up some replacements for it. However, I feel like the ad is a bit of scare-tactic. The music even brings about that feel. I feel a little like the ad is trying to scare away consumers from drinking soda by saying they’ll get fat.

41  Posted by Nora Alexander on January 8th, 2010 at 11:13 PM

I think that a visual message, such as this one, is a message that will catch the attention of the audience. A person can consume thousands of calories a day by drinking sugary drinks, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that. Although this advertisment is an extreme, it has a very important message and I hope it does make a positive difference.

42  Posted by Molly Huserik on January 8th, 2010 at 10:07 PM

I thought that this advertisment was extremely effective.  However Im sure the outcomes vary from person to person and depending on their health habits, they might actually cut soda and sugary drinks all together or it might not even phase them.  For me, I thought it was gross, I don’t really drink it very much but sometimes you just really need a Dr. Pepper or Mt. Dew!  I don’t think I will completely cut it out but I will definately think about this video and the amount of fat that it adds on in time eveytime I see a soda.  So all in all, they got their point across and have educated people.

43  Posted by Lyda Riley on January 8th, 2010 at 10:01 PM

Although the ad campaign is grotesque, it definitely resonates with people.  This is not an ad you will forget.  It would be nice if all they had to say was drinking soda will cause your blood sugar levels to spike which increases insuline activity causing your body to make more fat and people were outraged.  However, I think people react more when they hear some food or beverage product will affect their physical appearance than hearing about how it adversely affects them internally.  Overall I think the ad is effective.  With type two diabetes skyrocketing and the enormous health costs associated with it, a more aggressive aproach is needed to get the message across…soda is bad for you people!

44  Posted by Elizabeth Henry on January 8th, 2010 at 09:50 PM

I think that this specific advertisment of drinking fountian beverages could be very effective, just because it shows the harsh reality of what a person is really consuming when they are deciding to drink a soda. It wasnt the most pleasent thing to watch, but totally effective.

45  Posted by Marisol Soto on January 8th, 2010 at 09:17 PM

The video’s is shocking. With overweight and obesity rates so high, it’ll be interesting to see how effective it is. I wish the video had provided citation. There’s many factors associated with obesity and its interesting they chose to address eating habits and not physical activity.

46  Posted by Jessica Mole on January 8th, 2010 at 08:31 PM

This add grossed me out. I think I actually threw up in my mouth a little. I don’t believe this ad to be a propaganda ad. I think that this ad represents a creative way to make people think about their soda consumption, however I don’t think it’s super effective because a short ad like this won’t help prevent soda consumption nor will it support the addict who is already influenced. I do think that this ad will make people at least think about the fat content briefly, but will not have lasting effect.

47  Posted by Conrad Goddard on January 8th, 2010 at 07:06 PM

At first when I watched this add, I was disgusted.  I do realize that that is probably the point of the add.  This add does a very effective job of informing people of how unhealthy drinking soda can be.  Although, I feel like this add wont have a massive effect on the communities consumption of soda.  I think that this will make people think about how much soda they drink and what kind of an effect it has on them for a very short time.  I don’t think this add will make people change their behaviors and lifestyles.

48  Posted by Jacob Dozier on January 8th, 2010 at 06:24 PM

These “shock” adds are starting to be used more and more frequently by public health organizations. It started with the anti tobacco campaign “truth”. Then the Montana anti meth campaign picked up the technique using adds targeted towards teenagers. Sometimes using extremely graphic and violent situations to relay their messages. It seems these in your face, scare tactics are an effective way to reach the youth of America. Personally I find them to be quite potent. As for this Add I think it is very effective but it also adds a more lighthearted dimension that can be just as effective if utilized in other shock add campaigns.

49  Posted by Anne Kelly on January 8th, 2010 at 05:28 PM

This video was disgusting, but it certainly gets the message across effectively. People need to realize how unhealthy soda can be for you. Drinking these types of beverages is like drinking empty calories. I don’t think most realize just how many calories are in a can of soda. I think that the next time a person reaches in the fridge for a soda might think twice about it after watching this advertisement.

50  Posted by Ryan Walker on January 8th, 2010 at 03:58 PM

I think this add works well. Its very strait to the point.  Like many people have said this add speaks to the younger population.  If you look at many adds by soda companies they also target younger people. Sprite and their basketball adds, coke and their dance/day of the life of a young person.  This add fights against these adds.  Its more persuasive then showing a glass of milk or juice. Nasty but to the point!

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