ASA slams jokey ads for Coke’s Vitaminwater

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Slogans like “more muscles than brussels” and “keep perky when you’re feeling murky” are to disappear from UK ads for Coca-Cola’s Vitaminwater under orders from an industry watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has asked Coca-Cola to remove several slogans from ads for the enhanced water brand on the grounds that they make claims that mislead consumers about nutritional benefits.

Coca-Cola said much of the advertising was “humorous and irreverent”​ but on receiving several complaints the ASA investigated and found this to be an inadequate defense.

Which Brussels?

One poster ad for the “power-c” drink began with the headline “more muscles than brussels”.​ Advertising regulators noted the argument that this was a humorous reference to the actor Jean Claude Van Damme – otherwise known as “the Muscles from Brussels”.

What they objected to was the failure to capitalise Brussels, which taken in the context of other claims in the ad could mislead consumers into comparing the nutritional benefits of the drink to those of the Brussels sprout.

Among the contextual slogans leading the ASA to this conclusion included a reference in the ad to Popeye and arm wrestling with older family members. The offending passage read: “Popeye had it easy. A can of spinach and he bulked up... the nutrients in this bottle won't enable you to walk on mud, or become a strapping sailor man, but they will help you beat your granny in an arm wrestle.”

Another poster was headlined “keep perky when you're feeling murky”​ and contained text on the label stating “If you’ve had to use sick days because you’ve actually been sick, then you’re seriously missing out my friend. The trick is to stay perky and use sick days to just, erm, not go in."

In this case the ASA ruled that the ad was misleading because it implied that the vitamins in the drink could increase resistance to illness and no evidence for this was forthcoming.

Sugar content

The sugar content of Vitaminwater also came under scrutiny in the ASA ruling. Various statements related to nutritional benefits like “vitamins b + zinc are great for giving you superhero-like powers”​ were felt to give the overall impression that the drinks are healthy.

The ASA said this was misleading because they contain 23g of sugar per 500 ml serving which constitutes 26 per cent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) based on 2000 calories a day.

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