Pulled Super-Bowl Ad Creates Super Buzz for Soda Upstart

SodaStream pokes at Coke and Pepsi and sees its ad declined by CBS.

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By Margaret Littman

SodaStream USA

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"It is a PR gift to have an ad banned," said Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream International, the publicly-traded maker of home-carbonation machines, during an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine in December.

At the time Birnbaum was talking about an ad that had run in more than 50 other countries, but was banned in the U.K. The SodaStream advertisement showed cans, bottles and cases of traditional sodas -- the likes of Coke and Pepsi, albeit leaving them unnamed -- exploding every time a consumer carbonated a drink with one of SodaStream's DIY machines. Clearcast, the broadcaster organization that approves TV ads in the U.K., ruled that the spot "denigrates" the industry.

"We got so much media coverage from that," Birnbaum said. The company's YouTube views increased from 40,000 to 3 million as folks went to see what all the fuss was about.

Birnbaum, apparently, is a fan of regifting. Last week he received another such PR present, as the ad that SodaStream reportedly spent more than $3 million to create for this week's Super Bowl was declined by CBS. The new ad, which was to be the company's first Super Bowl buy, had a similar theme, with Pepsi and Coke bottles exploding during delivery to a supermarket. A voiceover touted a statistic that use of SodaStream "could have saved 500 million bottles on game day alone." The spot reportedly was rejected because it took a direct jab at SodaStream's competitors. The other brands were specifically named in the commercial.

Related: Super Bowl Commercials Through a Marketer's Eyes

That waste-reduction message is one of SodaStream's main environmental touch points. The company is trying to shake up the established beverage market, encouraging consumers to make soda at home, choosing their own flavorings and carbonation levels while reducing cost and use of bottles and cans. But with estimated 2012 revenues at $424 million, SodaStream is a tiny company compared with the big brands, both of which are also advertising during the big game on Sunday. Just being in front of those 100 million football-watching eyeballs is crucial for building brand awareness. For that reason, SodaStream will run a modified ad during the big game.

SodaStream spokesperson Yonah Lloyd recently insisted on CNBC that the company didn't set out to create another barred ad, but it is getting the most from the current situation, putting the banned ad on its website, creating a Twitter hashtag (#SodaStreamAd), and talking about it on the news show circuit. It's the PR gift that keeps on giving.

Editor's Note: Look for more on SodaStream in the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine.

Margaret Littman

Margaret Littman is a journalist who covers small businesses, travel and all manner of other topics, with a sweet spot for anything relating to stand-up paddling or Music City. She is the author of the Moon travel books to Nashville and Tennessee and is at work at a guide to the Natchez Trace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines, and she is the former editor of Entrepreneur magazine’s Start It Up section.

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