We came across an article
Jun 03, 2001
We came across an article in the June Nutrition Action Healthletter decrying Coca-Cola’s use of Harry Potter to sell “liquid candy” to kids:
“Harry Potter” isn’t just about magic. It is magic. The best-selling books have done more to transform millions of children into enthusiastic readers than any well-intentioned effort by anyone, anywhere. They haven’t just torn kids away from television and video games. They’ve worked miracles for “slow” or reluctant readers and for children whose lives need a lift from Harry’s pluck and spirit. If anyone deserves to be called a hero, it is Harry Potter and author J.K. Rowling.
That’s why it is so distressing that the Coca-Cola Company has bought, for $150 million, sole worldwide marketing rights to the first Harry Potter film-“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”-which Warner Bros. will release in November. (Coke has also signed on for the sequel.) Yes, Virginia, poor Harry has been sold.
To her credit, Rowling has not allowed typical fast-food tie-ins and product placements (so Harry won’t be drinking Coke in the movie). Harry also won’t appear in Coke commericals (though he’ll be ubiquitous on Coke packaging). And Coca-Cola says that it will finance reading initiatives for children. But the bottom line is selling more “liquid candy.” According to Coke’s and Warner Bros.’ PR departments, the deal “will center on helping people discover the magical world of their imaginations through reading while reinforcing the core values and attributes shared by Harry Potter and Coca-Cola.” Like profits, decayed teeth, and big bellies?
Ironically, it was only a couple of months ago that Coca-Cola (and PepsiCo) drew kudos for agreeing to tone down their marketing in schools. But, simultaneously, Coke is revving up a bevy of huge marketing campaigns besides Harry’s:
To target younger children, Coke has announced a global agreement with Disney to market “healthful” vitamin-enriched drinks using Disney characters like Mickey Mouse. Most of those products are basically water, sugar, and a couple of tablespoons of juice, plus colorings and added vitamins.
Coke is targeting teenagers with a yearlong endorsement from popular singer Christina Aguilera. (Not to be outdone, new Pepsi ads feature pop singer Britney Spears.)
To reach young adults, Diet Coke has a new fleet of commercials featuring the voices of celebrities. As The Wall Street Journal put it: “New Diet Coke Campaign Plays Up Sex.” The paper also said that Coca-Cola “plans to spend as much as $500 million more than originally planned this year” on marketing.
Soda companies, desperate because their sales increased by just 0.2 percent last year, are doing everything they can to increase consumption. With Harry Potter’s magic on aboard, their job just got a whole lot easier.
Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D.
Executive Director Center for Science in the Public Interest