Coke’s website states, “We do not advertise to children under 12 years old.” Their official marketing policy defines “media that directly targets children under 12 as media in which 35% or more of the audience is composed of children under 12.”
Anyone who’s followed the news in 2015 may have reason to suspect that claim. Does Coca-Cola keep its word?
Consider this Fanta Zone in La Ronde Amusement park, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada:
Beyond Coca-Cola’s policy, Quebec’s Consumer Protection Act forbids advertising to children under the age of 13. The “Fanta Zone” above even included advertisements of children drinking soda. (Fanta is a Coca-Cola Company brand)
The Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems filed a complaint against Coca-Cola in 2013. Acting on that complaint, the Office for Consumer Protection investigated the Fanta advertisement.
Then this October, the Coca-Cola Company pleaded guilty to the charge of advertising to children under 13. This is an intriguing admission given Coca-Cola’s official position. Coca-Cola will have to pay nearly $28,000 Canadian dollars to the Quebec government (worth about $21,000 in USD).
While Coca-Cola pleaded guilty of advertising to children, it still denies intending to do anything wrong. Coca-Cola Communications Director Antoine Tayyar avers,
This area was originally intended for an older audience (youth and adolescents) and is located outside of the area for children.
Consider for yourself whether this is a reasonable assumption for an amusement park’s water play area. Applying Coca-Cola’s own standard, is it reasonable to expect that fewer than 35% of the children playing in an amusement park’s water play area are under 12 years old?
Le Journal de Montreal has published evidence that the La Ronde Amusement Park ad is not an isolated incident. Below is a photo from a maze for children 3 and under from the Jungle Adventure Amusement Park. The Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems has also filed a complaint regarding this ad. We await the verdict.