Stuart Smith on Coke’s irreverence

Unabashed by a reprimand from the Advertising Standards Authority last autumn, Coca-Cola’s Glaceau Vitamin Water is again courting controversy, this time with an on-pack promotion encouraging employees to take a “sickie”.

Surprise, surprise, it has garnered quite a bit of “edgy” publicity – in the fun-loving tradition of the brand. Most of it courtesy of those stuffy people at the Forum of Private Business – representing self-important SMEs – who have got themselves in a lather over the £12bn lost work days cost the UK economy annually. Even lawyers have shown an interest – proof positive that this one should run and run.

But don’t worry, all this carefree irresponsibility in the service of “irreverence” doesn’t mean a thing. We have Coke’s word for that. “This is clearly a tongue-in-cheek reference, very much in keeping with the humorous tone that Glaceau Vitamin Water has adopted with consumers right from its launch… We are not seriously suggesting people should call in sick when they are not and, on pack, we state, ’taking a sickie is very, very naughty’.”

That’s all right then: complete exoneration from responsibility. I’m sure the ASA will buy that one when someone contacts it with a complaint.

And just to check that Coke really does see the joke in the same enlightened way as the rest of us, I have a modest proposal. Why don’t some employees at Coca-Cola GB test the water, so to speak, by reporting in “sick” over the next few days? After all, they’ve got the perfect excuse.

All this atomised volcanic ash descending from the upper atmosphere could be playing havoc with our health, especially if we’re a bit asthmatic.

And the beauty of it is, no one’s going to know whether we’re telling the truth or not. Just like the ever-elusive “24 hour bug” recommended on the

Glaceau Vitamin Water label! That should give HR a laugh.

Silly idea, eh? Just like the brand’s “irreverent” posturing.

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