by Marion Nestle
Mar 29 2013

The Coke “chairs” ad: Stand up for Coke!

I’m indebted to Yoni Freedhoff for posting Coca-Cola’s latest anti-obesity initiative, this one in Spain.

Will Chairs conquer the world?  Not if you stand up for Coke!

“What if we stand up?” is the message.  OK, this is not an absurd idea, in theory.  As Mal Nesheim and I review in our book Why Calories Count, plenty of evidence supports the health benefits of standing and fidgeting, rather than sitting.  

But this ad comes from Coca-Cola, as part of its “4 commitments to fight overweight and sedentary lifestyle” campaign.

Why would Coke do this?  As BrandChannel says, “to get out ahead of the negative “sugary drinks” PR wave.”  It notes that Coke just signed a new bottling agreement in Spain, where it also launched “Happiness” ATMs as part of its global “ Open Happiness” campaign.

But in “Chairs,” gone is Coke’s role in promoting health. Sure, it’s meant to be funny but the substituted message is about how it’s the consumer’s fault for sitting down so much. Coke is implying that its a third, disintereted party and that consumers should take it up with their chairs (which, really, is another way of saying consumers should take it up with themselves). 

The ad follows others run in the U.S. and in the U.K.

What I love best about the Spanish ad is that it could have come right out of The Onion.   Its writers argued that the ferocious opposition to Mayor Bloomberg’s 16-ounce soda plan proves that Americans are willing to stand up for their beliefs.

Dr. Freedhoff points out another irony: Coca-Cola is in the business of selling chairs (who knew?).


  • This type of ad is great. A certain percentage of the population will see them and realize that our current food system is bizarre. It can and will act as motivation to move away from the Western diet.

    Sprinkle on top of that ad, pronouncements from the Institute of Food Technologists that pulling a carrot out of the ground is processing food and yes, chewing a carrot is processing food too –

    No doubt, after learning that the junk food purveyors of the world do not care about our waist line or health, many people will just say no to the standard American diet.

  • Michael Bulger

    And of course, the protagonist in the ad buys a Coke at the end. The chairs are use to help Coke deflect blame, so that Coke can make a sales pitch.

  • Annie

    I have never encountered anyone so fanatically opposed to physical activity as Marion Nestle and her disciples. Until now I thought my teenagers held that title but I was mistaken.

  • Marketing people are so clever. There really is no such thing as bad publicity. Everyone is talking about Coca Cola. Good or bad we’re talking about them.

    In the end we aren’t talking about Pepsi, their competitors.

    So when we do get thirsty… and we see a Pepsi vending machine… and a Coca Cola vending machine… We’ll be drinking a nice cold coke.

  • Marion, you remind me of a chef I used to work with. He used to say “Don’t make it to good or they’ll come back”. He of course was joking but you seem to condemn food companies for making their food too good.

  • I have a different take. We have the most to gain by making our own good decisions because one way or another we will be accountable. So I am okay with people making their own decisions. Sometimes I even make an imprudent decision.

  • They are smart! In that ad, they’ve disconnected their brand with the problem, have highlighted the sedentary lifestyle problem and they say that the next ad will focus on solutions.

    Thanks for the post.

  • brainmatters

    Annie, please share a single example of Marion Nestle being opposed to physical activity. (Pause). I didn’t think so.

    Your argument is as silly as the ad–deflect to something irrelevant rather than address the issue.

    @Ken Leebow

    I “like” your comment, but would add that not only do people need to move away from the “standard American diet” (if you are defining that as heavy on junk/processed food), but they also need to simply eat and drink LESS of whatever they are eating and drinking.


    So, the guy buys his Coke and heads back to….his CHAIR! As soon as Google gets those “glasses” on the market, I can go for a walk while I post blog comments!

  • Isn’t Coca-Cola anti-obesity an oxymoron? Studies are now showing even diet coke contributes to obesity, but never forget that these advertising people really know what they are doing, and I agree with Jess “Good or bad we’re talking about them”.

  • No doubt, after learning that the junk food purveyors i will keep lots of things in my mind now. Good post, extreme knowledgeable…

    Bread and Basket

  • I have witnessed this campaign also which is great; thanks for opening up a discussion on this humorous ad from Coke. Personally, I love the way the company delivered the indirect message about the effects of sitting too much and getting too lazy to stand. Indeed, I believe there’s a lot of benefits when you stand more than sit.

  • I remembered that campaign from Coke, and at first, I actually laughed because of how creative the company is. However, the real message was made clear to me through this post of yours. Thanks a lot!

  • It seems that this type of ad will attract the consumers, and by making such a creative ad people are going to talk about it, and it will give benefit to coca cola company.

  • Many times people get confused from the campaign but articles like this are very helpful to understand the actual theme of company.Thank you for highlighting it.

  • The ad makers are very much smart, they highlighted problem in this ad and afterwards they will give solution in next ad, so that consumers should remain in suspense. Hats off !

  • I myself has watched the ad and I think they are doing great. They had targeted a quite neutral and handsome point of happiness.

  • Happiness is the basic element for a healthy life. It is just like a medicine of life. And hands up for coke they are working on it. Great going guys.