Israeli company SodaStream has seen success largely thanks to its partnerships with a growing list of retailers. But now, in a quest to get its beverage-carbonation gadgets into more homes, it's embarking on its first global ad push.
The focus on traditional advertising comes as SodaStream partners with adman and social-causes crusader Alex Bogusky on a larger rebranding effort that coincides with rising tide of concern about the health effects of regularly drinking soda and other sweetened drinks.
Mr. Bogusky attracted attention a few weeks ago for his work with Center for Science in the Public Interest. The pair teamed up on "The Real Bears," an animated short film that encourages consumers to pour out sodas. Coca-Cola has long used polar bears in its advertising, though Mr. Bogusky has denied any connection.
In the weeks before the video came out, New York City's Board of Health approved a controversial ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks. The ban was proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
(Beyond the beverage world, Mr. Bogusky also encouraged his Twitter followers to "sticker bomb" products at local groceries after California voters rejected a proposal to label genetically modified foods this week.)
"We connected with Alex Bogusky about six months ago," SodaStream Chief Marketing Officer Ilan Nacasch told Ad Age . "He's not afraid of going against big, well-established brands and companies and that 's why we decided to partner with him. He helped define the mission and purpose that will be the message of the SodaStream brand, which is rooted in social and environmental responsibility. He supervised the creation of the big advertising idea and storyboards and then we worked with Common agency, that Alex is a part of , to produce the advertising." Mr. Nacasch said SodaStream's other agency partners include HL Group for public relations. For social duties, it works with Likeable Media.
In recent months, SodaStream has also gone after Coca-Cola, though from an environmental perspective rather than a competitive-product one. The company created multiple installations of empty containers, many Coca-Cola-branded products, as part of a global outdoor marketing campaign. "The Cage" was meant to illustrate the number of cans and bottles a family uses over a three- or five-year period. Versions popped up in New York's Union Square and Times Square. Coca-Cola sent the company a cease-and-desist letter in South Africa, which with SodaStream brazenly refused to comply.
From the start, SodaStream has been hammering home a "bubbles without bottles" message to consumers, but it appears now to be focusing more on innovating more-healthful alternatives to soda. SodaStream claims that its syrups have a third of the calories of traditional sodas and do not use high-fructose corn syrup or aspartame. It plans to roll out more "water aromas" to give a hint of flavor to carbonated beverages and stevia-sweetened drinks as well. Mr. Nacasch claims that his company is unlike big soda makers: "they are afraid of changing their formulas," he charged.
The first spot, dubbed "The SodaStream Effect" was directed by Daniel Benmayor, who's in the past directed commercials for Converse, PlayStation and Volkswagen. The ad makes for a dramatic 30 seconds of advertising, depicting thousands of bottles of soda in trucks, warehouses and other locales that spontaneously explode and vanish into thin air as consumers use the SodaStream soda maker.
Says the voice-over on the ad: "With SodaStream you can save 2,000 bottles a year. If you love the bubbles, set them free."
This commercial starts airing today nationally, as well as in Australia, the Czech Republic and a few Nordic countries. The plan is to roll the ad out further in Europe, and support the ad with print, out-of -home, radio and web executions. New ads could come in December, Mr. Nacasch said.
SodaStream was named to Ad Age 's Hottest Brands list last year, thanks to its skyrocketing popularity. The brand grew to distribution in nearly 9,500 stores in the fourth quarter of 2011 from 2,500 stores in the year-earlier period.
In the U.S. SodaStream has focused largely on education, persuading consumers to invest in a machine that transforms tap water into sparkling water. Last year, Kristin Harp, SodaStream's U.S. marketing manager, said: "Then and now, we've had very little budget for traditional media spend. We've built this business, and an entire category in fact, on the back of word of mouth and PR."
Said Mr. Nasach: "We are now at the end of our retail extension and we think it's the right time to invest in mass media advertising ... and making sure most Americans hear our message. We have a compelling proposition from a product standpoint and from a sustainability standpoint. We are investing as we grow. When our sales are doubling, our advertising budget is pretty much doubling as well." For now, the campaign spending is about $18 million.
"We're just scratching the surface," Mr. Nacasch said.