This article was originally published on reverb, Drake Cooper’s reflections on advertising, creativity, and trends. Read more.

Diet Coke marketing – is it heart healthy?

The other night I was watching the Olympics with my kids, and my 5 year old son saw one of the Diet Coke TV Ads that are part of their ‘Heart Truth’ campaign. And then he said something that literally made my heart stop: “Mom, if you drink a lot of Diet Coke everyday your heart will get really strong and healthy from it, right?” (Whaaaattt?)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhMOjhth9vw]

But now that I keep seeing the ads night after night, I can see where he got that. The Heart Truth campaign is for a great cause, don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of supporting the awareness of women’s heart health programs. I’m just not sure Diet Coke is the right partner.

I’ve been marketing food and beverages for over 15 years now, and have come to know there is a fine line with marketing product claims and associations, and having facts to back it up. When I worked at Beringer Wine Estates we thought about putting a heart symbol on one of our bottle hangers for a Valentine’s day promotion. When I worked at Litehouse Foods we thought about doing the same for a dressing promotion. In both cases we checked the regulatory guidelines and decided not to. Not because our products were proven NOT to be healthy for one’s heart, but because we could not prove they actually WERE healthy for one’s heart. It’s a subtle difference, and yet has such huge implications.

According to Coke…”We’ve used our communications and marketing expertise to reach millions of people with this important heart health message,” the company said in its statement. Yep, and you’ve reached my 5 year old son and my 9 year old daughter and they now believe Diet Coke helps make your heart strong. I guess I’m not sure if the communication plan is working?

Maybe the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is rethinking this partnership too, based on this article from CBS News.

I love to drink Diet Coke once in a while. Love the fizz, the sweetness, and the sugar high. But one thing I know for sure is it’s not going to help make my heart strong and healthy. Now my kids know that too. Because I made that perfectly clear to both of them. Then I gave them each a big glass of milk, and put them to bed!