by Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
This is the video that Coca-Cola doesn't want you to see.
Its famous Polar Bears are skewered -- as is the whole soft-drink industry -- in an anti-sugary-drink video to be released Wednesday. Behind it: Alex Bogusky, the culturally influential ad legend whose former agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, has created ads for such hot-button clients as Burger King, Domino's and, yes, Coca-Cola.
Bogusky left the agency world in disgust two years ago. Now, he's back in a new role: taking on the cola industry along with advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest. The move comes at a time big makers of sugary drinks are being challenged by legislators and consumers from New York to California. It's all about winning the viral PR war.
The video's goal: to show the ill effects of drinking too many sugary beverages. The papa bear in the animated video, The Real Bears, not only suffers from erectile dysfunction, but also contracts type 2 diabetes, which forces him to have a "grizzly" leg amputation. The video ends with the polar bear family pouring their cola into the ocean.
"You know the American diet has gone the wrong way when it's considered normal to drink massive amounts of liquid candy," Bogusky says. "This is a cultural wake-up call."
But executives at Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association say the video is bunk and its statistics wrong.
"This is irresponsible and grandstanding and will not help anyone understand energy balance," says Coca-Cola spokeswoman Susan Stribling. "It also distorts the facts while we and our industry partners are working with government and civil society on real solutions."
Pepsi declined to comment. But ABA spokeswoman Karen Hanretty says, "CSPI is better at producing videos than they are doing math. People are drinking fewer calories from soda -- and have been for a decade -- so how can soda be to blame for rising obesity?"
Aside from political work that Bogusky has done for former vice president Al Gore, this is his first ad since leaving the agency business. It is bound to raise social-media eyebrows and is expected to go viral after it is posted at TheRealBears.org.
If anyone knows how to go viral, it's Bogusky. In 2004, his agency created for client Burger King one of the first megaviral commercial videos about a so-called Subservient Chicken that would instantly perform one of 300 typed-in commands. Before that, Bogusky was widely known for the anti-tobacco Truth campaign that he helped create.
Now he's teaming with an advocacy group to try to put the societal brakes on sugary-drink consumption.
"There's a war going on between soft-drink companies and health advocates," says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "This is our attempt to reposition soft drinks from a source of happiness to a major cause of disease."