Just weeks after SodaStream announced the rollout of its first-ever global ad campaign, a 30-second TV spot at the center of its marketing push was pulled from the air in the U.K., where authorities deemed the ad disparaging to big sodamakers such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.
U.S. adman Alex Bogusky, who seems to never stray far from controversy, is behind the ad campaign.
As Ad Age reported earlier this month, Mr. Bogusky was hired by SodaStream to help craft the spot and guide the company's messaging to consumers. Mr. Bogusky also earlier this year partnered with the Center for Science in the Public Interest to produce an animated short called "The Real Bears," which rails against sugary sodas. The CSPI work was met with mixed reviews in the ad business, which was split on whether his new-found activism makes him a hero or a hypocrite.
"He's not afraid of going against big, well-established brands and companies and that 's why we decided to partner with him," SodaStream Chief Marketing Officer Ilan Nacasch told Ad Age a couple of weeks ago.
The ad in question depicts thousands of bottles of soda in trucks, warehouses and other locales spontaneously exploding and vanishing into thin air as consumers use the SodaStream soda maker. It had already aired in the U.S., Australia and Sweden without issue before being pulled in the U.K.
But Clearcast, the private U.K. body jointly funded by the U.K.'s commercial broadcasters that evaluates whether ads should be aired, sided with big soda companies. And so the spot was pulled in what Sodastream is calling an "eleventh hour decision" before its scheduled premiere during the TV show "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here" last Thursday.
The company said it was told the following about the reasoning for the move: "The majority decided that the ad could be seen to tell people not to go to supermarkets and buy soft drinks, [and] instead help to save the environment by buying a SodaStream." It was also told that it constituted "denigration of the bottled-drinks market."
Clearcast did not respond to a request for comment by press time. But according to the Financial Times, it was the "visual treatment" that was perceived as putting down soft drink brands and put it in breach of the country's broadcast advertising code.
In a statement, Fiona Hope, SodaStream U.K. managing director, said: "This decision is absurd. We have neither named nor disparaged any of our competitors in the industry and cannot see how this makes any sense. Through the ad, we are simply displaying an alternative way to living more sustainably and illustrating one of our product's benefits -- the reduction of plastic bottle wastage. Consumers should be allowed to make their own decisions about how to live their lives and the products to choose. This decision appears to put the sensitivities of the world's soft drinks giants ahead of concern for the environment."
The company is meeting in early December with Clearcast and broadcasters to try and appeal the decision. "We will continue to fight this decision with Clearcast and will push to reverse this decision," Ms. Hope said.