SodaStream Seeks Legal Advice After Failed Appeal on U.K. Ad

Appliance Marketer Holds Firm That Spots Are Not Anti-Big Soda

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SodaStream is seeking legal advice after the fight to screen its commercial on U.K. TV received another knock-back today.

Clearcast, which approves all TV advertising scripts, has rebuffed SodaStream's appeal against a ban on the "If you love the bubbles, set them free" spot, created by controversial U.S. adman Alex Bogusky.

Fiona Hope, SodaStream U.K. managing director, said in a statement, "We reject the assessment. ... We're unclear as to how SodaStream can be seen to be attacking an industry of which it is a part -- it is merely trying to impact positive change on the sector."

The SodaStream spot has run without problems in the U.S., Australia and Sweden, but U.K. regulators insist that it is detrimental to soft-drinks manufacturer such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

The 30-second commercial shows crates of soda bottles exploding whenever someone uses a SodaStream soda maker, and finishes with the line, "With SodaStream you can save 1,000 bottles a year."

SodaStream retaliated against the ban last week by substituting the original TV spot with another one that showed only a black screen with white words that read, "If you love the bubbles set them free," accompanied by the sound of exploding bottles and a YouTube link to the original ad.

The ad was banned because it breached Code 3.42, which states, "Advertisements must not discredit or denigrate another product, advertiser or advertisement or a trademark." SodaStream believes that the clause relates only to products and ads, and not the industry as a whole, but the regulator disagrees.

Clearcast points to the banning (by the Advertising Standards Authority, which deals with complaints about ads that are already running) of a 2008 National Lottery ad, which was judged to have denigrated bingo by implying that it was a dying industry. The ad, which promoted a new bingo scratchcard from the National Lottery, showed a traditional bingo hall with a closed sign and a padlock on the gates.

At a meeting of Clearcast's Copy Committee on Monday, the initial ban was upheld. A statement from Clearcast said, "The committee, made up of representatives from the broadcasters, agreed with Clearcast's initial decision that the ad denigrates the soft-drinks industry ... so the ad remains unapproved for broadcast in its current form. The decision at Copy Committee is final. Clearcast will happily work with SodaStream in the future to work toward an alternative solution, acceptable for broadcast."

Clearcast insisted in its statement that it had not been pressured into the ban by soft-drink manufacturers. It said: "We'd like to make it totally clear that Clearcast has had no contact with any other parties in the sector on this issue."

The initial Clearcast decision was made by an internal group. It was upheld by the Copy Committee, which is made up of representatives from six commercial broadasters: ITV, Daybreak, Sky, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Turner. There are also observer members fro the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers.

SodaStream's Ms. Hope added: "We stand by our statement that there is absolutely nothing disparaging in our original campaign as we do not mention or show a competitor brand. ... With 35 million bottles and cans being used every day in the U.K. and only 45% being recycled, the public needs to be encouraged to act in order to positively impact the environment."

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