"Clear up product confusion, and take a leading, responsible role in the obesity debate that was in line with the company's commitment to building a happier, healthier world."


Coca-Cola was in a bind. It was the world's most loved icon of happiness and most valued brand but it had an unfortunate twin-role at the center of the global obesity debate. We needed to convey a clear message. People needed to know, once and for all, what Coca-Cola's point of view was on the growing health debate surrounding its products.

It was clear we needed to formulate and communicate a coherent, powerful point of view, a point of view that understood people, and one that people would in turn care about.


The reality is that stress, anxiety and depression all exist on a sliding scale of mental ill-health that provide the unfortunate backdrop to the narrative of obesity we're playing out across the world today.

When people are anxious or stressed, their stress physiology puts them in 'fight or flight' mode disrupting their entire bodies, including their breathing, immune and digestive systems. Even low levels of stress are enough to trigger this imbalance, and we reach out for 'comfort food' to satisfy the cravings for a quick dose of energy to compensate. As individuals become obese, greater anxiety and often depression fuel even more regular binge eating. This is the stress-obesity cycle. But here's the opposite – it's what we might call the happiness- health cycle. When we're feeling positive, we're motivated to move more and eat better, activating more positive chemical reactions such as endorphin release, that lead back to mood uplift and the positive self-esteem associated with not being overweight or obese.

Researchers at Penn State University had just proven that physically active people experienced much stronger positive emotions such as enthusiasm and excitement. Obesity specialists told us that patients needed to be happy to move, and needed to move willingly, even enjoy moving, in order for their weight to really stay off. All this led us to a conclusion. We knew achieving energy balance was important but just recommending exercise alone, as all the pundits were doing, wasn't getting us to better health. That's because emotional health was being ignored. So our solution was simple:

Happier activities.

Regular little activities that make you feel happier every time you do them, whether it's running with your dog or going bowling with friends.


First, we needed to enter the debate by being transparent about ourselves, educating consumers about the choices in the Coca-Cola sparkling portfolio which includes a diet or zero-calorie version of every single beverage. Next we were going to talk openly in our communications for the first time about the number of calories in every can of Coca-Cola. But here's where the creative twist came in. Instead of just acknowledging the calories (already an industry first), we would reframe calories as being a source of positive energy for all the happy activities out there. Just as it's our choice to consume calories, it's also our choice how we choose to spend them. So instead of being sedentary or feeling sorry for ourselves, consumers of Coke can choose to 'use' their caloric energy to undertake more of the happy activities that give them a little uplift. Like dancing in front of the mirror. Because it's this positive, holistic mindset that will eventually make us healthier.


The 'happy calories' campaign broke in the USA with the 'Be OK' spot during American Idol 2013 on January 16th, 2013, and again during the SuperBowl. Instantly, the campaign was industry news. According to Ace Metrix the campaign scored highly on both emotion and information, being 24% more effective than the average soda ad and 15% more effective than the average corporate branding ad. Industry stakeholders commended the company for acting transparently and responsibly.