Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Is Coke targeting kids?

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Have you spotted a bottle with your name on it?Photo / Paul Harper
Have you spotted a bottle with your name on it?Photo / Paul Harper

When I saw the Coca-Cola with personalised labels stacked up on the end of an aisle in the supermarket, I idly wondered if my name was one of the 150 chosen ones. It wasn't.

I thought little more of the cute campaign until I saw a TV3 item Personalised Coke bottles target children - health advocates in which a health professional claimed the campaign constituted "advertising to children by stealth." A Coca-Cola spokesperson responded by saying that children under 12 are not targeted by the company.

Indeed, the Coca-Cola Oceania Advertising and Promotion to Children Policy states that the company does "not aim or direct any media marketing activity from any source to children under the age of 12." This is to ensure they're not undermining parental decisions about what beverages are best for their children.

But if that's the case then why am I able to draw from the list of chosen names a virtual roll-call of girls in my daughter's Year Five cohort of nine and 10-year-olds: Alice, Amy, Anna, Brooke, Charlotte, Claudia, Ella, Georgia, Grace, Holly, Isabella, Jasmine, Jess, Kate, Katie, Lily, Lucy, Nicole and Olivia? Could it just be a coincidence?

A spot of analysis was called for. I cross-referenced the 150 Coca-Cola names with the most popular names for babies in New Zealand in 2004.

Fifty-two out of the top 70 boy's names were on the Coca-Cola list - as long as you include diminutives such as Josh, Ben, Sam, Matt, Dan, Will, and Tom.

Of the top 70 girl's names for that year 47 also appeared on Coca-Cola's list - again, if you agree that "Alex" will do for "Alexandra", "Ash" for "Ashley", "Jess" for "Jessica" and "Sam" for Samantha.

That's 74 per cent and 67 per cent respectively. (For the record, 100 per cent of the top twenty names for each gender for 2004 - that is, children who are now eight-years-old - were on the Coca-Cola list.) Are these robust percentages just luck or is that the result you'd expect when you have a very long list of names with which to cross-reference?

To gain some insight into names of people at the other end of the lifecycle I turned to the Death Notices in the NZ Herald on two different days. Applying the rule of accepting diminutives, on 31st October just nine names out of 68 were on the Coca-Cola list while in the issue of 3rd/4th November only 13 out of 75 names in the Death Notices were on it - that's just 13 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.

It would be fair to say that Coca-Cola isn't targeting the older generation with its name campaign. There's not an Ernest, a Horace, Keith, Lionel, Norman or Trevor to be seen. Dorothy, Gladys, Mabel, Muriel, Nancy and Thelma are similarly conspicuous by their absence. But the jury must surely still be out whether young children are being targeted.

What are your thoughts on Coca-Cola's name campaign? Did you buy a bottle with a personalised label? Do you think it targets young children or does it hold far wider appeal?

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

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