Coke Zero advert banned for 'misleading' workout claim

A television advert for Coke Zero has been banned for potentially misleading viewers about the amount of exercise needed to burn off the calories in a can of regular Coca-Cola.

Suggestions for burning off the 139 calories in can of Coca-Cola included 25 minutes of dog walking, 10 minutes of dancing and 75 seconds of laughing out loud, with a plus sign in between each idea.

Further text then stated: "But if today you don't feel like doing it... have a Coke with zero calories," with the ad showing a can of Coke Zero.

Ten viewers complained that the individual activities would not be sufficient to "negate the effects" of drinking Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola said the ad used "universally recognised mathematical signs" to indicate that the activities needed to be done in combination to burn 139 calories.

The company argued that the ad raised awareness of the calorie content of Coca-Cola and the importance of active lifestyles, as well as encouraging consumers who wanted to moderate their calorie intake to consider its calorie-free product.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said: "We considered that the plus sign was not as prominent as the on-screen text describing the activities and further considered that some viewers might infer that the plus sign was purely decorative.

"In light of that ambiguity, we considered that it would not be clear to some viewers that it was the combination of all the activities depicted which would burn off 139 calories."

It added: "Although we understood that the ad had intended to convey that the combined activities would burn 139 calories, because we did not consider that that was sufficiently clear to some viewers, we concluded the ad was likely to mislead."

It ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.

A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said: "We are disappointed with this decision. The advert, which clearly described exactly how many calories there are in a can of Coca-Cola and suggested fun ways to burn them off, reached an audience of 39 million people. Ten people contacted the ASA about it.

"The advert was intended to explain how people can help manage their energy balance by actively burning off calories consumed. Given the growing problem of obesity, we believe it is important for more people to understand this information.

"We will, of course, comply with the ASA's decision, but raising awareness of energy balance is part of our global commitment to help tackle obesity and we will continue to use our advertising to address it."