A company that sells soda-making machines has received a little holiday cheer, and it all started with a tempest in a bottle of pop.
SodaStream International Ltd. drew some unpaid publicity in addition to the televised ad time it bought to promote its machines, which carbonate water in reusable bottles. Last month, its newest commercial was yanked off air in the United Kingdom. Clearcast, the broadcaster-owned group that approves TV advertising, ruled that the ad's "visual treatment denigrated other soft drinks."
The spot shows people using SodaStream machines, followed by shots of pop bottles sitting in a warehouse spontaneously exploding.
Views of the ad on YouTube shot up in the wake of the news, and it has now garnered more than two million views. The Airport City, Israel-based company is taking advantage of the buzz for its bubbles: It has forked over cash for ad time in the coming U.S. broadcast of the Super Bowl.
On Tuesday, it announced a deal to run the ad on the sports channel Eurosport, which broadcasts in 59 countries. Last week, the ad made its debute on Canadian airwaves. The national campaign will run for two weeks.
The marketing team in Canada believes that the U.K. controversy will help to boost its brand over this crucial holiday period.
"Marketing does not only work when it looks beautiful or it's placed in the right time slot, or for the right shopping season. Any controversy like this one, that engages people ... is great for us," said the president and CEO of SodaStream Canada, Marta Mikita-Wilson. This year, SodaStream's Canadian sales climbed 120 per cent from 2011.
SodaStream appealed the U.K. decision, but it was upheld last week. In a statement, Clearcast denied reports that it was pressured by soft-drink companies to ban the ad. As the controversy has gone on, the team behind the ad has taken to social media to promote the issue – including Alex Bogusky, the well-known co-founder of ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Mr. Bogusky is no longer with the firm and is now involved in a number of projects, including the making of this commercial.
The commercial has arguably received much more attention than it would have received from its planned airtime during I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here on the U.K. channel ITV.
In Canada, ads are approved by the Television Bureau of Canada. (For ads dealing with alcohol, cosmetics, food, pharmaceuticals, or advertising to children, pre-approval is also required from self-regulatory group Advertising Standards Canada.) Since the beginning of September, the group has approved more than 19,000 ads; last broadcast year (September 1 to August 31) it approved a total of 67,294. Less than 5 per cent of the ads it examines are rejected outright, according to TVB president and CEO Theresa Treutler. When there are concerns, the group works with the advertiser to bring the spot in line with its guidelines.
The SodaStream ad fell under the Canadian group's definition of "comparative advertising," a category that requires "extreme caution," according to its rules. But it was approved for air.
"It really is not attacking what's in the bottle. It's dealing with the bottle itself," Ms. Treutler said.
Ms. Mikita-Wilson hopes the dust-up will have staying power, nabbing extra attention. The holiday period has accounted for about 30 per cent of annual sales since it launched in Canada in 2010. What made waves in the U.K. is exactly the marketing message she wants to spread here.
"They said it was denigrating the bottled drinks market. And in all fairness, this is totally, absolutely, yes," she said. "We need to step out of the bottle. We need to learn how to reuse, how to not create waste."