Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


There's a phrase I've often found troubling.

It's: "You're throwing my words back in my face."

This comes across as a terrible accusation, whereas its true meaning is: "I'm just reminding you of what you said."

An health advocacy group has decided to throw Coke's words back into its capacious gullet. It's created an ad that uses as its foundation the Coke ad known as "Hilltop."

You'll remember it from the last episode of Mad Men: Lots of people of different races and proclivities standing on a hill and clutching the lay crucifix of its time, the Coke bottle.

Now the Center for Science in the Public Interest has resurrected that ad. It's maintained the sentiment. Gosh, it's even purloined the song. (I suspect it might not have enjoyed the requisite permissions.)

However, it's put a little modern twist on the whole thing.

For the ad is set in various parts of a hospital and all the singers have type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other ailments such as "soda-related obesity."

The lyrics are changed a touch too. For example: "I'd like to teach the world about what sugar did to me."

At the time of writing, Coke hadn't formulated a reaction. But for any business, when your words are thrown back in your face, there's that moment when you wonder whether to strike back or to ignore it.

You could issue an anodyne statement that acknowledges the ad's existence, but suggest that facts are absent from this diatribe.

You could aggressively exclaim that these are raving do-gooders who all wear Birkenstocks, rarely shave any body parts, and believe that the U.S. president is called O'Nanny.

Or you could do nothing.

By doing nothing, you count on the ad to blow over. Humans have a short attention span these days. They could barely recognize Anthony Weiner, even if just a couple of years ago they could think of nothing but his penis.

Give it a few days and it'll all go away, the argument might go. Yes, these activists may have grabbed your copyright. But better they grab that than too much attention.

But what if CSPI: Anti-Atlanta is beginning to capture the imagination of the younger, please-save-the-world-so-I-can-live-in-it crowd.

Meanwhile, the CSPI offered this: "For the past 45 years, Coca-Cola and other makers of sugar drinks have used the most sophisticated and manipulative advertising techniques to convince children and adults alike that a disease-promoting drink will make them feel warm and fuzzy inside."

I feel sure that one or two sentient (and critical) humans will offer that nonprofit groups sometimes exist in order to make people feel warm and fuzzy inside too, especially those who work for them.

The sentients might also point out that Diet Coke is 99 percent water and then ask whether people actually have a choice not to buy the largest, most guzzlingest size of fizzy drinks and enjoy three of them a day.

Still, there's a little pressure on food manufacturers these days to fall in with these eco-friendly, spiritual times, when we're all getting fatter despite eating organic.

What should Coke's strategy be? The last time the CSPI made one of these ads, the company replied: "This is irresponsible and the usual grandstanding from CSPI."

What will Coke do this time? Perhaps it will sing its reply. Or would that be grandstanding?