SodaStream To Jab Big Soda In Super Bowl

Coke and Pepsi cannot be pleased. They’re spending princely sums on Super Bowl spots next year. But another ad in the game will pretty much rip them for burning through a lot of fossil fuels and wreaking havoc on the environment with their gazillions of plastic bottles.

SodaStream, which markets a device that turns tap water into carbonated beverages, is taking its efforts to sell itself as an eco-friendly, feel-good alternative to conventional soft drinks to advertising’s biggest stage. The growing company – global revenues were up nearly 50% in the third quarter to $112.5 million – said it has purchased a spot in CBS’s February coverage of the Super Bowl.

The ad promises a new twist on a compelling spot in a current campaign, which shows people starting their SodaStreams, followed by explosions of plastic soft-drink bottles. No brands are easily identifiable. But one bursting case sure looks as if it has countour-shape bottles with red labels.

Nonetheless, the message is clear: SodaStream-ers can use the same bottle over and over for seltzer and flavored drinks, helping with environmental sustainability. In contrast, all those two-liters and six-packs from Big Soda can make the world less green for grandchildren. It’s smart marketing by the Israeli company operating in 45 countries.  

SodaStream's current ad recently provoked a contretemps in the U.K., where a body that approves ads for commercial broadcasters rejected it. Initially, a representative from Clearcast offered a statement that seemed as if the group was trying to protect big-spending Big Soda -- saying the ad “could be seen to tell people not to go to supermarkets and buy soft drinks.” Clearcast later told the Guardian it turned away the ad not because of any eco-friendly bent, but because the U.K. advertising code doesn’t allow for denigration of other products or advertisers.

SodaStream protested, but no doubt behind closed doors loved the publicity. The possibility of censorship can get people pretty worked up and SodaStream issued a press release crying foul, proving itself to be a sagacious us-against-them marketer.

In a similar vein, SodaStream indicated that with the Super Bowl spot, it will go right at the Cokes and Pepsis (implicitly, of course). Making that clear now is a first step as SodaStream intends to stretch the 30 seconds of fame it will get in the Super Bowl into months. (Its ad is being created by legendary adman Alex Bogusky.)

Save Chrysler, which has done a brilliant job the last two years in surprising viewers with epic spots with Eminem and Clint Eastwood, marketers are increasingly trying to draw attention to their big game spots well before kick-off.

SodaStream’s announcement about its Super Bowl purchase was piercing. CEO Daniel Birnbaum said its ad will lay out benefits “confronting the conventional and arguably outdated beverage industry by showing people that there is a smarter way to enjoy soda.”

Further, SodaStream said its ad is scheduled for the fourth quarter -- just “when people are most likely to notice the growing piles of bottles and cans strewn about the room and filling up their trash.”

CBS has already approved the SodaStream spot, so the company won’t get any publicity boost from a battle against censorship. What would help would be Coke or Pepsi offering sharp retorts to SodaStream barbs. But, that would be a losing approach, simply drawing attention to the opposition.

The American Beverage Association, which represents Coke, Pepsi and others, knows this. A representative simply said its members are leading in "environmental sustainability" with lighter materials that reduce weight on trucks, helping reduce emissions, and other approaches.

“All of our packaging is 100% recyclable and we support comprehensive recycling programs in communities all across the country,” he added.

Coke is going with a PlantBottle it says brings “a lighter footprint on the planet and its scarce resources.” Similarly, Pepsi says it’s “promoting the efficient use of land, energy and water in developing low-impact packaging” and by 2015 it’s looking to improve water-use efficiency by 20%.

Last year before the Super Bowl, Ford may have erred by contacting NBC and asking it to decline a General Motors spot. The ad showed a Chevy truck surviving an apocalyptic event in good health and a Ford suffering the opposite fate. As Ford’s protest became public, it had people more eager to see the spot.

Big Soda wisely wants to avoid that toxic approach. Maybe it will quietly pull for a Super Bowl blowout, so millions will turn away from the game in order to get a jump on picking up the scattered bottles and cans to recycle them.

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