Polemic Against Coke Advertising on UCF Campus



By Richard Ries
Guest Columnist
Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Updated: Sunday, November 11, 2012 15:11
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Here at UCF, when you exit your Lynx shuttle bus near the Education Complex, you’re not greeted by a statue of John Dewey — you’re welcomed by a pair of Coke machines. Stroll up to the Humanities building, and there’s no bust of Shakespeare — there’s a Coke machine. Walking to the Union through the main corridor? Stop and get a Coke, as there are several machines you must walk by. The Union itself is nothing short of a repository for Coke products and logos. There’s a Coke machine just about everywhere on the UCF campus, including at the student pharmacy. Things go better with Coke. Even Ambien. When you walk into the Recreation and Wellness Center, you have to walk past the all-you-can-drink fountain of Coke products placed there by Subway. A few of the Coke machines near the workout equipment feature only Dasani and sports drinks, but you don’t have to go very far to get your Coke, either.

There’s little theme to the UCF campus beyond its manicured lawns and Coke machines. Instead of statues of the great men and women in history whose genius should inspire us, or homages to the Seminoles or Spanish explorers of early Florida, we have Coke machines. UCF is a branding and logo paradise for Coke marketers. You will see the red and white logo countless times during your stay here, every hour of every day. In fact, you don’t see too many displays of Knights or Pegasus — you see Coke machines. So much so, you might just become a consumer. I think that’s the plan. At UCF, it’s more than marketing — it’s assault. Coke executives — and lots of soft drink consumers, due to heavy marketing — like to use the word “choice.” The libertarian adage is that we are “free to choose” and that such a fine company as Coca-Cola “makes choices available for its consumers.”

Baloney. Everyone who thinks they have a “choice” in the matter, look squarely into the mirror — you’ve been snookered. Sugar is marketed so heavily to most of us that by the time we can vote, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking we are “making choices.” It starts with sugary cereals, candies to mark any holiday, and when the candy season ends with Easter, the Good Humor Man begins making his summer rounds, peddling his wares with the savvy of a drug dealer. Restaurants feature all-you-can-drink sodas so that the satiation never occurs. The “adults make choices” philosophy was the same lie and propaganda tool the tobacco industry spun for half a century.

Lastly, it’s that your health is for sale. The nonpartisan Bush/Clinton initiative took painstaking efforts to get soda out of secondary schools — to make substantial inroads in the fights against teen obesity and diabetes — only so that UCF students can be tempted by copious amounts of Coke. Because intoxicated students or ones smoking cigarettes have immediate ramifications to their surroundings, the slow processes of obesity and diabetes — the most important health issues of our time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are given a back seat. Coke gets the nod and the wink from university officials, and student welfare gets compromised.

UCF went through a soul-searching process last year and decided to ban cigarettes from campus. It should continue modernizing itself by making a dramatic reduction in the sugared Coke available to students. Most vending machines are filled mostly with sugared products; they should be mostly diet sodas, juices and milk. All-you-can-drink fountains should be abolished. UCF should also teach its tens of thousands of students that there is an open-market economy – and one company shall not dictate advertising on campus. The many logos should be removed as an affront to the goals and values of a serious education. In the meantime, students should boycott Coke. In modern American culture, consumer choices are sometimes the only way to make a daily political statement. You can make one by stating that you are more than a walking sales statistic for Coke and that you are more than a naive target for Coke branding. Just imagine if students graduated healthier — not heavier – and that human health and longevity was of infinitely more paramount concern to UCF than Coke dollars.

Now that would be sweet.

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