logo

SodaStream turns to print ads to criticize plastic waste

By: Emma Hall

December 7, 2012

LONDON (Dec. 7, 1:55 p.m. ET) — SodaStream International Ltd. is switching to a print advertising campaign to keep up the pressure on United Kingdom ad regulators, after its TV spot was banned for “denigrating the soft drinks industry.”

The print ad, running today in major U.K. newspapers including the Guardian, Daily Mail and Evening Standard, is headlined, “Censored,” and makes the claim that could not be broadcast on TV: “With SodaStream you can save 1,000 bottles a year.” It was created by Studio 0304 in Israel, where SodaStream International is based.

SodaStream’s tactics are exposing the anomalies in the U.K. advertising regulatory system, which pre-vets TV spots but not print ads. Print ads are only banned if the Advertising Standards Authority receives complaints, and then upholds those complaints after an investigation. The process usually takes a few months, and a decision is often made long after the campaign has ended.

The banned TV spot shows crates of soda bottles exploding whenever someone uses a SodaStream soda maker, and is part of the “Set the bubbles free” campaign.

It was prohibited to be broadcast by TV ad watchdog Clearcast, and SodaStream failed to have the ban overturned after an appeal, although it is consulting with lawyers on its position.

SodaStream’s print ad comes down pretty hard on the soft-drink industry. The ad points out that the soft-drink industry spends about $63 million a year on U.K. TV advertising, effectively accusing Clearcast — the body that banned the TV spot — of pandering to bigger marketers than SodaStream, which spends about $18 million globally each year. Clearcast is owned by the U.K.’s largest TV broadcasters.

SodaStream goes on to make its argument: “In the U.K., we dispose of 35 million plastic bottles every day and only 26 percent are recycled. ... For some this truth is uncomfortable, but should it be banned from being told?”

The ad urges consumers to “Stand up and be heard” on SodaStream’s Facebook page, where the banned TV ad can be viewed, and concludes with its logo and the “Set the bubbles free” endline. The comments on SodaStream’s U.K. Facebook page are building up, with contributions including, “How was that banned? It’s the consumer’s choice whether to buy SodaStream or bottles from the supermarket.”

SodaStream International also announced this week that it will reveal a “fresh take” on the same controversial positioning in a new commercial set to run in the U.S. during the 2013 Super Bowl. In a statement, SodaStream said the spot will run during the game’s final, fourth quarter, “When people are most likely to notice the growing piles of bottles and cans strewn about the room and filling up their trash.” The commercial is being developed by Alex Bogusky and Rob Schuham through Common, the same team that created the original spot, which has run without controversy in the U.S., Australia and Sweden.