TV ads attack Kenney's proposed soda tax

The beverage industry is dishing out $1.5 million to defeat Mayor Kenney's proposed soda tax.

Radio ads debuted in mid-March. On Friday, the American Beverage Association took its message to TV, attacking Kenney's proposed sugary drink tax in a commercial that is slated to run through at least April 24.

In the 30-second animated spot for the "No Philly Grocery Tax" coalition, a woman's voice breaks down how prices would increase.

"Right now Philadelphia is considering a three-cent-per-ounce grocery tax on the kind of drinks we buy for our families. Three cents an ounce doesn't sound like much, but when those pennies start adding up, your grocery budget is going to go -, " the ad begins, showing pennies falling into a grocery cart until it overflows.

Since March 14, the ABA has spent $583,415 on radio ads. The broadcast and cable television ads are worth $812,725 and $170,000 respectively, according to orders placed with TV and radio stations compiled by the Snyder Pickerill Media Group, whose founding partner Ken Snyder is working for the pro-tax coalition.

The ABA has also purchased full-page ads in the Inquirer. Philadelphia Media Network, the company that owns the newspaper, declined to say how much had been spent on the ads.

The ads were expected. The ABA has defeated more than 30 similar proposals nationwide, often pouring millions into ad campaigns. Given that City Council won't vote on the tax until June, the ABA is on pace to spend several million more in coming months.

"They're spending millions in ads to protect billions in profits," said Snyder, who previously worked for Kenney's election campaign. "I've never seen this kind of mobilization by an industry. ... We didn't see this with liquor-by-the-drink."

Larry Miller, spokesman for the antitax coalition, said the ads are to inform the public of the full cost of the tax.

"Political consultants will turn to empty campaign rhetoric when they are losing on the facts," Miller said. "Philadelphians deserve to know when their elected officials are considering a new tax that will increase their grocery bills, and will harm consumers, local businesses, and their workers. Our goal is to educate them about a discriminatory tax proposal that will double the cost of some grocery items like juice drinks, sports drinks, soda, and teas."

Snyder said the coalition, called Philadelphians for a Fair Future, would respond on radio and TV. He did not have estimates on how much would be spent or when ads might go live.

Kenney has been campaigning for the tax on the ground for weeks. He appeared at the opening of a conference for early childhood education professionals at the Convention Center last week, imploring the audience to call Council members in support of the tax, which would fund pre-K.

The City of Philadelphia Instagram account is filled with pictures of smiling children in pre-K classrooms around the city with the hashtag PHL4preK.

Kenney has also been making the rounds at parks and recreation centers citywide with district Council members whom he needs to persuade if he wants the tax to pass.

The three-cent-per-ounce levy would put $56 million toward debt service on a $300 million bond to carry out park and recreation center repairs.

jterruso@phillynews.com

215-854-5506 @juliaterruso