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Does new Diet Coke ad encourage addiction?

Diet Coke campaign targets entrepreneurs.
Mike Pont/Getty Images for Diet Coke

Coca-Cola has a long history of adding addictive substances to their soft drinks – cocaine used to be their extra-special ingredient – and now they seem to glamorize the use of caffeine to achieve success.

Their new ad campaign, designed by New York-based advertising agency Droga5, describes the mentality of ambitious entrepreneurs, followed by “You’re on Diet Coke.”

Coca-Cola spokesperson Stuart Kronauge told AdWeek the “You’re on” reference implies those times in life you need to be on top or at your best game. But most people can see past their thinly-veiled drug reference. Even still, the advertisement effectively targets a group of determined self-starters, those young professionals ready to do anything to get to the top (ring a bell, Angelenos?) – even if it means all-nighters fueled by copious amounts of caffeine.

According to Mintel’s 2013 Carbonated Soft Drinks report, 83 percent of men and 72 percent of women ages 18 to 34 regularly drink soda. While other sources of caffeine play a role in America’s perceived need to stay on their game, soda contributes heavily to the nation’s abuse of caffeine.

Murray Carpenter’s first book, “Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us” calls attention to this epidemic. While Carpenter admits he still consumes caffeine, it’s the amount that Americans take in that’s the problem. And ads like Diet Coke’s campaign don’t do much to help alleviate the overwhelming abuse of what is undeniably an addictive drug.

Coca-Cola maintains that their ad “celebrates ambitious young achievers” and serves as a reminder that Diet Coke is there to support them along the way. Let’s call the educated public skeptical.

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