Just days before kickoff, CBS ordered Soda Stream’s fourth-quarter commercial off the playing field.
The banned commercial shows bottles of big-time Super Bowl advertiers Coke and Pepsi exploding, leading Forbes contributor Will Burns to speculate
CBS banned SodaStream’s Super Bowl spot because, apparently, it was too much of a direct hit to two of its biggest sponsors, Coke and Pepsi.
I am shocked that CBS would ban a spot for being too competitive.
CBS is protecting its relationship with Coke and Pepsi. Those two brands spend big bucks on the Super Bowl and on the network, in general. I get it. But all CBS would have to do, if Coke and Pepsi put the pressure on, is say, “Hey, we’re just the unbiased middle man here. It’s not up to us what competitors of yours say about you.” There’s no need for the medium to have a say in the message.
Months ago, incidentally, the commercial was banned from British commercial television for visually trashing competitors’ products, a practice known politely as “ashcanning.” (You can figure out on your own the less polite but more widely used, substitute for “ash.”)
But “interestingly enough,” Advertising Age notes, “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.” It was this commercial, in fact, that the banned Soda Stream spot was attempting to parody. But unlike Soda Stream, “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.”
Strong execution, weak message
The banned commercial’s message is that you should use Soda Stream machines and syrups to make sodas at home because they don’t use bottles – not because it tastes good or saves money or anything like that.
If everyone watching the Super Bowl had used Soda Stream, the voice-over says, that would have saved 500,000 bottles alone.
But ecological correctness doesn’t make for strong consumer appeal. As we noted over two years ago, GfK Roper research was already showing marked consumer disillusionment with the green-product category; people were no longer buying products for environmental claims alone.
“Turning lemons into lemon soda”
With a 1 percent share of the US soda market, Soda Stream has no place to go but up. So they took this slap as an opportunity to strike back.
According to president Yonah Lloyd, they’ve dusted off and re-edited a December commercial to run on the Super Bowl itself.
But all Super Bowl weekend, he said in a Bloomberg TV interview, they’ll be running the banned spot in regular programming.
They’ve also embedded the YouTube file of the commercial on their landing page under the heading “Game Day 2013 Commercial: The Unaired Soda Stream Ad.” It’s already gotten 2.2 million views – for free. And to draw more attention to the commercial than they’d ever have received from CBS airing it, they’ve created a #SodaStreamAd Twitter hashtag.
As Lloyd told Bloomberg, “We know how to turn lemons into lemonade…or lemon soda, I guess.”
And as Anika Anand blogged at Business Journal, “Soda Stream’s banned ad could be the year’s most popular Super Bowl commercial without ever being aired.”
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