SodaStream CEO: Consumers Will Still See Banned Ad


two-glasses-of-sodaThis time Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were not parties in the matter. This was a decision by CBS,” SodaStream International Ltd. CEO Daniel Birnbaum told “Globes about imbroglio over the home carbonated beverages company’s Super Bowl advertisement. “In general, we weren’t seeking any provocation. We received CBS’s approval for a gentler ad, and Alex Bogusky, a creative giant, advised us to do something about it, and we decided to try and obtain CBS’s approval.”

On Thursday, SodaStream announced that it will run a revised version of its “SodaStream Effect” advertisement for the Super Bowl today, and that the original ad would be aired online and on other television networks.

“Globes”: So you were aware from the outset that CBS might reject the original ad.

Birnbaum: “Yes. That’s why there is no scandal as far as we’re concerned, and we’re not angry at anyone. I told CBS that I understand them. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are among the biggest advertisers at the Super Bowl.”

You admit that the two companies had a hand in CBS’s decision.

“Look, I didn’t contact Coca-Cola or PepsiCo at any point, only CBS. We tried to change the ad to meet its demands, which mainly means not to humiliate or ridicule other companies, which we didn’t do.”

Despite Birnbaum’s smooth talking, there is a sense of his great disappointment at CBS, and especially what he thinks it means for freedom of expression in the US.

Birnbaum cites an article by “Forbes”, which argues that the media’s job isn’t to judge, to support his argument. “Forbes” contributor Will Burns says, “I am shocked that CBS would ban a spot for being too competitive. But I’m even more shocked that the advertising world isn’t up in arms about it.” He adds, “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.”

Freedom of expression or not, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s deep pockets apparently influenced CBS’s decision.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t [care]. If the consumer is smart enough, and understands that he was prevented from seeing something, he’ll find a way to see it.”

Birnbaum knows what he is talking about. The original ad – Game Changer – is on YouTube, where it has had 2.4 million viewers, and the media noise over CBS’s decision has not waned. The media, including “Forbes” has not let up, and the rejection has given SodaStream far more publicity than any 46-second spot at the Super Bowl.

Bottom line, is bad publicity good publicity?

“Not always, but in this case it seems so. I am not ashamed by the rejected ad. On the contrary, I’m very proud of it.”

The ad reportedly cost SodaStream $1 million, and given that a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl costs $3.8 million, the total cost is almost $5 million – 3% of the company’s annual sales and marketing expenses. Birnbaum says that there are 21 advertising breaks during the Super Bowl, and that SodaStream’s ad will be aired during the 19th break, and will be the final ad by beverages companies.


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