Spinning the truth on social media: A textual analysis of health-related television advertisements
The theory of multimodality (Kress 2010; Kress and van Leeuwen 2006) has impacted major research fields like Linguistics and Education by significantly extending our understanding of what is meant by communication through different modalities and media. More recently, scholars have been paying attention to multimodality in the world of advertising (Lick, 2015; Enli, 2014). Drawing on the work from multimodality scholars like Machin and Mayr (2012), Kress and van Leeuwen (2006) and others, this study explores the multimodal choices that were strategically made by a major multinational beverage company, Coca Cola. Specifically, these choices relate to its health-related television advertisements that were created in response to health-related criticisms of its products by consumers and health institutions over the years. The purpose of this study is to examine whether the beverage company is ‘spinning the truth’ in response to health-related criticisms by using certain multimodal strategies in its healthrelated television advertisements posted on the YouTube website. The study also critically reviews the reactions of consumers to these specific television advertisements on YouTube and the issues they raised in their on-line comments. The findings of this research study illustrate that Coca-Cola did not admit to its contribution to obesity in its health-related television advertisements and it did not address health-related criticisms in the comment sections on YouTube. Instead the brand’s common message and stance in all of the health-related television advertisements was that consumers need to lose the calories that they gain from consuming Coke by eating well, being active and exercising in order to avoid obesity and other health issues.