A 46 year old man has died after cinema management switched the regular Coca Cola beverage that he had purchased at the theatre's front of house snack-shop with a Coke Zero. He was among some fifty movie goers who fell for what was intended to be a "healthy jape" - employed by cinema staff - who had replaced all of the Cokes served to the audience - with the diet alternative.
Coke Zero has been running the cinema campaign for some time, using audiences as guinea pigs in their taste tests. The diet drink is one of the big success stories in the history of the cola wars. Coke Zero has been chipping away at the market share of the more sugary Coke since the younger brand's launch in 2005. Using clever advertising to highlight that Coke Zero is nearly identical in taste to Coca Cola seems to be working so far. Coca Cola management are trying to find a reasonable advertising response - but they seem desperate.
"I want Coke Zero DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the ground!" one senior executive was overheard shouting during a meeting at Coca Cola's European headquarters. Indeed, Coca Cola management at all levels are said to be worried about the new Coke Zero campaign. However, a series of ads of their own suggesting that "You don't want to be a part of that Big Fat zero" was dropped due to fears that it suggested drinking sodas of any kind might lead to obesity, super-obesity, super morbid-obesity, or hypertension.
The evening the man died, just before a showing of Man of Steel which was otherwise well received, the audience was informed of the sly change in beverage during the trailers, by a handsome member of staff who appeared onscreen.
Cinema goers describe how they exchanged glances with each other, laughing about how they really hadn't noticed a difference in the taste. The victim of the diet drink switch started to hyperventilate a few minutes after the onscreen announcement. As his breathing became shrieklike, he was asked to "stop breathing so heavy or get out, mister," by those around him. Hauling himself out of his seat, he collapsed in the lobby. When there was no change in his demeanour after an offer of two free movie passes, an ambulance was called.
The victim of the cola campaign may have had an allergic reaction to the "Ace K" sweetener in the drink. Acesulfame potassium - as it's known outside of the FDA offices and laboratories - is a sugar substitute commonly found in the diet drink. It is believed to be almost harmless. Happily, however, in certain territories, Coke Zero uses an equivalent sugar substitute that is potentially more carcinogenic.