Alex Bogusky doesn’t rest for a minute. After advocating for Proposition 37 and making "The Real Bears" video for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), he’s back in the news again. This time for an ad he created for SodaStream, the maker of home carbonation systems. The ad was rejected in the UK because, according to claims, it contributed to "denigration of the bottled-drinks market."
To Bogusky, an adman turned activist, or in his own words brand advocate turned consumer advocate, this campaign was somewhat of a comeback to the world he left not too long ago. "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.
It looks like SodaStream made the right bet. Not only did Bogusky create a witty and distinctive ad, but he also managed to create a controversy, which got the company tons of additional exposure. He also confirmed SodaStream's position as David fighting Goliath in its battle against the big soda companies. Everyone loves an underdog. Could you get any more value out of a 30-second ad?
The ad itself, entitled ‘effect,’ shows people using SodaStreams while bottles of soda in stores and warehouses explode and vanish. If you didn’t get the message, the voiceover at the end of the ad makes it clear: “With SodaStream you can save 2,000 bottles a year. If you love the bubbles, set them free. SodaStream.”
As the Financial Times reported, the ad has already aired in the U.S., Sweden and Australia, without issue. In the U.K. nevertheless the response was different. According to the Times, Clearcast, the NGO which vets ads, gave the SodaStream thumbs down just before it was going to be aired during the show, “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.” “In our view, its visual treatment denigrated other soft drinks,” which put it in breach of the broadcast advertising code, Clearcast said.
SodaStream, at least publicly, wasn’t happy with the decision. Fiona Hope, Managing Director SodaStream U.K., told Ad Age in response, "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."
Despite the strong words, SodaStream may have been cheering in private. While the viewers of “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” missed the opportunity to see the ad, many others from all the around the world have chosen to watch it. The YouTube video of the ad has received more than 1.1 million views already. In addition, the company and its products received international press - and were often presented as the casualties of an unfair decision that may have been influenced by fear of recourse from big soda. (Clearcast is owned by UK’s 6 biggest broadcasters). Last but not least, the decision helped SodaStream position itself not just as David fighting Goliath, but also as a green David.
I was curious about the last point – SodaStream makes the case that it saves a lot of bottles, as its customers can make their own soda at home and hence don’t need to buy Coke or Pepsi in individual bottles. But is SodaStream really a greener option? Well, apparently the answer is yes.
Food and Drinks News reported earlier this year that SodaStream has undergone product carbon footprint certification with the Carbon Trust “in order to assess the carbon impact of sparkling water, cola and diet cola made with its Fizz drinksmaker machine and concentrated syrups. This product footprinting work has found that cola drinks made with SodaStream’s cola syrup has a carbon footprint which is 75 percent less than that of other cola drinks sold in plastic (PET) bottles in the UK.”
Whether the decision on the ad is fair or not, SodaStream seems to embrace the controversy pretty well. Just like Bogusky, SodaStream is no stranger to controversy, both on political and business grounds. SodaStream’s combative style was shown when Coca-Cola threatened to sue the company over its cage displays filled with discarded plastic bottles and cans. This is probably not the last round in its fight to set the bubbles free. With Bogusky’s new role as adivist (adman + activist) don’t be surprised to see him continue fighting alongside SodaStream until the last bubble is free.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris and an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and the New School, teaching courses in green business, sustainable design and new product development. You can follow Raz on Twitter.