Parents split over Coke Xmas truck

PARENTS are divided over Coca-Cola's decision to bring its controversial Christmas Truck to this year's Carols in the Domain.

The Coca-Cola Christmas Truck is in Australia for the first time this year, and was unveiled in Manly earlier this month.

It is currently touring regional areas including Tamworth in NSW and surprise locations in far north and far west Queensland.

Coke has partnered with The Salvation Army to bring more than 580 people from Coke and The Salvos, celebrity guests and volunteers to these areas, and it will support The Salvos through a range of community events before arriving back in Sydney for Carols in the Domain on December 17.

But the decision to bring the truck to the child-focused event has divided parents, with some slamming it as a marketing ploy while others dismissed it as harmless fun.

Lobby group Parents' Voice has labelled the truck "stealth marketing aimed at Australian kids", and has launched the "Stop the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck" petition with Change.org, attracting almost 700 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

The group's campaigns manager and Melbourne-based mum of two Alice Pryor said Coke shouldn't be promoted during the iconic Carols.

"Our concern really is this co-opting of a family holiday and family time by a corporate entity used in a way to market unhealthy products to children," she said.

"It's the first time the Coca-Cola Christmas truck has been in Australia. It has been touring the UK and it faced increasing controversy there from public health advocates. We really want to send a clear message that if it was not right for the UK, we don't want it here in Australia.

"We believe it is opportunistic of Coca-Cola and they are clearly targeting kids. By finishing the tour at Carols in the Domain, no one could ever possibly argue that it's not a child-centric event - hundreds of thousands of children either attend or watch it on TV, and for Coca-Cola to associate themselves with this sort of event when they say they don't target children under 12 is clearly false."

However, many parents have defended the truck on the Parents' Voice Facebook page, with James Chandler posting "Oh please. If 'stealth marketing' can overshadow your teachings as a parent then you shouldn't have kids", while Taylee Taylor wrote "Kids can't put something in their mouths unless a parent buys it. But instead let's let the charities suffer because parents don't know how to parent".

A Coca-Cola spokesman said Coca-Cola did not market to children, and said the purpose of the truck was to help communities.

"We hope that the families and communities that come to visit one of the Coke Christmas Truck stops this year share in the festive joy that it is intended to spread," the spokesman said.

"We are proud of the good that we are doing working alongside The Salvos in these regional communities who are doing it tough.

"We hope that the smiles and tears of joy on the faces of the people in Tamworth on the weekend at the concert we put on with The Salvos show this tour really is bringing joy to communities who often miss out."

A Salvation Army spokesman said Christmas was one of the busiest times of year for The Salvation Army, with more than 300,000 families and individuals seeking assistance.

"The Salvation Army's partnership with Coca-Cola is helping us bring hope to where it's needed most. It is an opportunity to give back to regional and remote towns and communities which can often be overlooked or forgotten in favour of Australia's major cities," he said.

alexis.carey@news.com.au



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