Super Bowl

CBS Tells SodaStream to Revise Brand-Bashing Super Bowl Spot

Commercial Attacked Bowl Sponsors Coke and Pepsi -- and Wasn't Just PR Ploy

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All was surprisingly quiet this year on the "They Censored My Super Bowl Ad" front ... until Friday, when Alex Bogusky tweeted that CBS had rejected the Super Bowl spot he was working on for SodaStream.

Every year, the Super Bowl attracts some of the best and most high-priced advertising in the world. But it also lures a horde of publicity-seekers claiming their commercials have been censored or rejected by the host network. In nearly all cases, the complaining marketers never really had a shot at the Super Bowl, thanks to shoddy production values, truly objectionable content and, more often than not, the inability to pony up more than $3 million for an ad. And it's a common occurrence for the network to ask event sponsors to tweak or edit the content for a variety of reasons (which also can yield a PR bonanza if a sponsor cries foul -- just ask serial offender

But SodaStream, a mainstream advertiser that some time ago purchased a spot in the game's fourth quarter, said this wasn't a PR gambit.

So what's the issue? The content of its planned commercial seemed to have concerned CBS because it was a direct hit at two other Super Bowl sponsors and heavy network TV advertisers: Coke and Pepsi.

SodaStream, which sells home soda-making machines, has already run afoul of authorities in the U.K. for a Bogusky-crafted spot indicating its product is more environmentally friendly than established sodas; the spot shows branded bottles and cans of soft drinks exploding into thin air. For the Super Bowl, it hoped to up the ante with a spot depicting truck drivers clad in clothing with Coca-Cola and Pepsi marks on them, according to Ilan Nacasch, SodaStream's chief marketing officer.

"We really tried to comply with the standards" set by CBS, he said. At the same time, he added, "We were taking it to a new level, and that's the level where they apparently judged to be going too far."

Interestingly enough, Pepsi has scored big points with viewers over the years by showing Super Bowl ads with Coke deliverymen abandoning their employer wholesale for a sip of a Pepsi drink. Of course, Pepsi (and, for that matter, Coke) buys multiple ads in the Super Bowl each year, as well as spends millions of dollars on other broadcast-TV advertising. Another Super Bowl sponsor, Anheuser-Busch InBev, is also teaming with Pepsi this year for in-store displays and promotions.

A CBS spokeswoman said network executives declined to comment.

"Bummed," Mr. Bogusky, famous for his work at CP&B, tweeted Friday morning. "CBS rejected the SodaStream Super Bowl commercial I was working on. But SodaStream is still in the game with an older spot we tweaked."

He referred an inquiry regarding his comment from Ad Age to his client. SodaStream's Mr. Nacasch said a new version of the ad CBS rejected was being prepared to appear on TV in coming days -- likely before the Super Bowl airs Feb. 3.

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