Diversity in media, vaccine access and Coke Zero

Authors: Liam Clifford, Kate Savin
  • Posted on: April 27, 2021

Read on for a handpicked selection of the good, the bad, and the one to watch in the world of social impact communications. This week, we’re highlighting diversity in the media, access to vaccines and the impact of the sugar tax.

| NAILED IT: A good weekend for representation

This weekend saw a pleasing rash of positive stories for inclusivity in media. Chloe Zhao came in with a historic Oscar win for Nomadland, winning both Best Picture and Best Director — making her the first woman of colour, and the second woman ever, to win the Best Director plaudit.

Throughout the evening, tributes were paid to diversity in film and wider social issues, with Daniel Kaluuya’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor in Judas and the Black Messiah a particular highlight: 

”There’s so much work to be done. Every one of us.”

It’s encouraging to see that after facing a well-deserved public backlash in #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy seems to be slowly waking up to the talent of a much more diverse group of artists.

In other good news in the representation space, Channel 4’s latest Diversity In Advertising Award has met with a very warm reception. 

Created by adam&eveDDB for the release of FIFA 21, the 60-second spot has won high praise for being genuinely authentic, a portrayal of British Muslim life made by a team all chosen for their lived experience with Muslim culture, and featuring the Birmingham-based Midnight Ramadan League and Leicester City star Hamza Choudhry. The ad is part of a wider campaign by EA Sports to encourage more diverse footballing talent — despite the sport’s vast popularity amongst all demographics, just 0.25% of the UK’s 4,000 professional footballers are British Asian. 

In a post-Kendall Jenner/Pepsi debacle world, it’s refreshing to see a major brand actually handle cultural diversity so tactfully.

| ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Coronavirus reaches new heights in India

UK restrictions continue to ease, with today seeing Scotland reopening cafes, beer gardens and non-essential retail. In Europe, Ursula von der Leyen has suggested that recreational visits to the EU might be possible for vaccinated Americans as soon as this summer. But as our conversation slowly switches to the ‘post-COVID’ space, we cannot forget the scale of the pandemic outside our bubble of easily available vaccines and well-structured public healthcare. 

Outside of the wealthiest nations, the pandemic is far from winding down. According to OurWorldInData numbers, of all the millions of doses of vaccines in arms so far, 83% of them have been in high-income countries, with just 0.2% in low-income countries.

Equal access to those life-saving vaccines is key. All this week, India has been setting and then breaking new grim records for new confirmed coronavirus cases daily, now up to more than 350,000 a day. Hospitals around the country are at the point of overwhelm. Despite making a good start with their vaccination rollout, numbers are starting to lag dangerously under the weight of increasing costs and demand. While infection rates skyrocket, there’s a grisly sort of irony that the Serum Institute, the biggest vaccine-manufacturing plant in the world — supplying vast quantities of vaccines to high-income nations like ours — is located in Pune, Maharashtra. Some of these nations already have enough doses to cover their population several times over.

Short-termism for those of us lucky enough to live in high-income nations cannot continue forever; global problems require global solutions. That’s not merely out of a sense of morality, but a very tangible sense of self-preservation. The longer the pandemic rages across the world, the more likely it is that new mutations and vaccine-resistant variations put our lives at risk once more. This isn’t something that’s happening to ‘other people’. COVID-19 cannot be the latest in a laundry list of global health inequalities that costs the lives of millions. The return of our freedoms is very much welcome, but let’s not get distracted.

| ONE TO WATCH:  New Coke Zero shows sugar tax works 

Have you gone to buy a Coca Cola recently and accidentally bought a Coke Zero? Or have you been looking for a Coke Zero but only seen red Coca Cola Classic tins on display? The soft drink giant has recently released updated branding in the UK, and the result is a lot of confusion. Why would Coca Cola, known for its brilliant ad campaigns and iconic design, sign off such similar products? The answer could be the sugar tax. 

In 2016 the Government announced the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL), commonly known as the sugar tax, to tackle rising obesity and diabetes rates in the UK. Coca Cola’s initial response was objection, asserting that obesity rates were not their fault, and that the extra cost would be passed on to retailers (and so ultimately costing consumers). They also increased the price whilst decreasing the size of many of their full-sugar products, and started charging more for their sugar-free alternatives. 

Between 2015 and 2019, research shows that the SDIL resulted in a drop in the percentage of drinks sold that were over the sugar threshold, from 49% to 15%. Those acquainted with nudge theory will no doubt find this all very unsurprising. 

Coca Cola will of course not vilify its oldest, most popular drink, and so there’s no official information on whether the sugar tax has affected the most recent rebranding. But we may just be witnessing a quiet attempt by the brand to shift consumers away from its most sugary drink to the tax-free alternative, cutting our sugar intake in the process. Coca Cola reports that 43% of its cola sales are less or no sugar products. How those numbers shift in the next few years could provide strong evidence that government intervention at the industry level is a powerful tool to reduce unhealthy food and drink consumption.