Marketing twist: Coke's new ads pitch exercise and low-cal drinks

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Coca-Cola became one of the biggest companies in the world by selling sugary drinks full of empty calories. As Coke's bottom line grew, so did the waistlines of its customers.

One can of Coke contains 140 calories, which is a lot by any standard. Because people who love Coke can be counted on to drink more than one can a day, it isn't difficult to see how its contribution to the obesity epidemic came about.

Although Coca-Cola isn't the sole culprit for why Americans are overweight, it is the top dog in a calorie-laden industry. This fact has not been lost on the product's marketers who rolled out a slick new ad campaign to do an end run around mounting criticism from nutritionists and others.

The ads, which began running on cable television this week, encourage exercise and consumption of its 800 lower-calorie drinks as an alternative to high-calorie Coke. By encouraging moderation when it comes to sweet drinks in general and Coke in particular, the company hopes to be seen as a partner in solving America's weight problem, and not an unindicted co-conspirator.

While encouraging overweight people to exercise and consume products like zero-calorie Diet Coke, Coca-Cola continues to aggressively advertise its flagship product. It spends $1 billion globally on all of its advertising campaigns. That means while one hand is raised in caution to Americans -- on choosing healthy habits -- the other hand is offering an ice-cold, 140-calorie Coke.

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