Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buyer, Eater, and Drinker Beware, Part Two

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about Diet Coke. Specifically, I wrote about Diet Coke’s recent “Heart Truth” campaign, in which the company announced it was raising “awareness for women’s heart health programs.” I found this ad campaign particularly infuriating considering the fact that Diet Coke is basically poison (you can read the column, "Buyer, Eater and Drinker Beware," in the archives). This week I found out that the folks at Diet Coke have lent their product to another, sneaky, smile-while-we-kill-you ad – this time with my favorite health food, Bacardi Rum! I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I had just gotten over my fury at the Heart Truth lie-fest when I bumped into a Bacardi and Diet Coke ad that made me spit. No joke. I saw the ad in a liquor store (where I was buying ice, people, ice) and literally yelled “WHAT!? STOP IT!” at the top of my lungs. Have you ever yelled at the top of your lungs in a liquor store? No? Well, turns out it’s frowned upon. I was asked to leave. And I blame Bacardi.

I blame Bacardi instead of my old nemesis Diet Coke because it seems Bacardi is responsible for this campaign, so Diet Coke is only an accessory to the crime.  A lying, stinking, nasty tasting, gut rotting accessory, but an accessory nonetheless. The advertisement touts Bacardi and Diet Coke as having “0 Carbs and 0 Sugar.” This, I imagine, is supposed to make you choose it as the cocktail least perilous to your waistline. I am not going to argue with the fact that a regular sized shot of Bacardi mixed with Diet Coke has fewer calories and sugar than, say, Bacardi and Coke or a beer, but that is not the point. The point is that like many others (see Crystal Light’s new commercial in which it pretends to be water), this ad tries to trick consumers into thinking that a product is more healthful or diet conscious than it really is. And in this case, Bacardi does so with tricky language that is misleading at best and flat out dangerous at worst.

Before I launch my assault, let me assure you that I am not one of those people who thinks everything has to be good for you. I understand that bad stuff often tastes and feels good. Believe me, I get it. To wit: I smoked cigarettes for a loooong time. Don’t judge me. They made me look hip and cool, right? Okay, judge me, because they made me look like an idiot, it’s a disgusting habit, and I am embarrassed that it took me so long to quit. My point is, I don’t look down on cocktails (as long as you are old enough and not driving, of course). But I do look down on advertising that misleads people about their health. And Bacardi does exactly that.

First of all, “no carbs” does NOT make something healthful or good for weight management. We all know that by now, right? Let me make it simple: bacon fat, low carbs; apple, high carbs. Enough said. What’s worse than feeding into the no carb nonsense is the fact that calling alcohol a “no carb” beverage is absolute trickery. Here’s the deal: the distilling of hard liquor produces sugars which go straight to your liver and do not raise your blood sugar.  Therefore, yes, distilled liquor contains no carbohydrates. Fine. However, because of this straight shot (pun intended) to your liver, your body processes alcohol first, before fat, protein, or carbs. So, drinking alcohol slows the burning of fat. Not good, right? There’s more. All alcohol contains calories, and in fact a gram of alcohol has 7 calories, as opposed to a gram of carbs, with 4 (protein contains 4 calories a gram and fat has 9 per gram). In short, alcohol is more fattening than carbs, period. Bacardi knows all this, and they are counting on the fact that your don't. Now, mix your Bacardi with Diet Coke, and in addition to messing with your diet you are also ingesting a glass full of dangerous chemicals. Yummy! To say that you'd be better off with carbohydrate- and sugar-rich orange juice than with no carb, no sugar diet coke is a massive understatement. And on top of all this, with or without carbs, alcohol is just bad for you in a bunch of other ways -- none of which I will bore you with here, because, like I said, I’m not that girl. And also because I might maybe sort of be planning to have a glass of wine after I write this. Maybe. But I am over 21 and not driving anywhere. So there. My point is simply that ads like this are designed to trick people into thinking something is healthful or good for weight loss when in fact the exact opposite is true. And this is as close to lying as one can get without, well, lying.

When I was a bartender, I once overheard two women toasting each other by clinking classes and yelling, “Ain’t no party without that Bacardi!” Yup. Now, all lame toasts and poor grammar aside, I want to stress again that I am not suggesting that people give up rum. I am suggesting, however, that people should support only companies that are responsible in advertising. And in that case, come on, there ain’t no party with Diet Coke and Bacardi.

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