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Want Your Ad to Go Viral? Get a TV Network to Ban It.

Want Your Ad to Go Viral? Get a TV Network to Ban It.
Image credit: Sodastream

In what has to be the ultimate PR coup, SodaStream, the publicly-traded maker of home-carbonation machines, has managed to get millions of people to watch its Super Bowl ad before it airs on Fox this Sunday.

For the second year in a row, the “make your own soda” upstart's Super Bowl commercial has been rejected for going after industry kings Coke and Pepsi (both major sponsors of the game).

While last year’s banned commercial was a tad aggressive, this year’s ad -- which features a seductive Scarlett Johansson touting the company’s home-carbonation machine -- is far tamer. At the end of the spot, Johansson offers the weak diss (if you can even call it that) “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.”

Diss or no diss, it was enough for Fox to pull the plug, forcing SodaStream to hastily edit the commercial at the last minute.

Related: How to Generate Publicity on a Shoe-String Budget

While top executives at SodaStream have made a show of acting flummoxed at the network’s ruling -- chief marketing officer Ilan Nacasch told Yahoo he was “very surprised” about Fox’s decision, while CEO Daniel Birnbaum told USA Today that Fox was “afraid of Coke and Pepsi” -- it’s hard to believe that they weren’t planning for this to happen. Or possibly even wishing for it.

After all, a year ago, Birnbaum told Entrepreneur: "It is a PR gift to have an ad banned.” At the time, he was speaking about a commercial that had been banned in the U.K., which showed cans, bottles and cases of conventional sodas exploding every time a consumer carbonated a drink with one of SodaStream's machines. Birnbaum was abuzz with all the free press bubbling in: "We got so much media coverage from that,” he said.

Yaron Kopel, SodaStream’s chief innovation and design officer, insists that the company wasn’t expecting Fox to reject its commercial. “It simply mentions the brands in a humorous way! If we wanted to make sure we were banned, we would have done something more provocative.” That said, he admits that the ban is not an altogether bad development. “It’s kind of another gift."

Related: How to Make Company Announcements in Buzzworthy Ways

No kidding. News sites from The New York Times to Entertainment Weekly have covered the story, and the uncensored version of the commercial already has over 3.5 million views on YouTube.

“The response is amazing,” Kopel says. “The original ad has been shown on broadcast television, on all the major networks, on Good Morning America -- I’d say it’s already reached millions of people.” And that’s before the edited version of the ad airs Sunday night.

This isn’t the first time the company has used unconventional methods to get its message across. Around four years ago, SodaStream set-up art installations in cities around the world featuring cages full of soda bottles and cans retrieved from nearby landfills, which were meant to dramatize the soda bottle waste an average family produces in a year.

When you’re a small fish competing against industry sharks, you have to innovate. “Our entire marketing budget for the year is probably equal to Coke’s advertising budget for a single day,” Kopel says. “We need to be a bit more creative about telling our story.”

Related: How Home Soda Making Devices Became the Next Big Thing

Laura Entis is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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