By now you've probably seen Scarlett Johansson's Super Bowl ad for SodaStream and heard that Fox has refused to air the original version during the big game. Was it because Johansson is just so damn sexy? You wish. The reason the network won't air the ad comes at the end, when the actress says, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.”
You can purse your lips all you want, ScarJo, but don't you dare use them to taunt two of the world's biggest advertisers.
Earlier in the banned spot, Johansson says, “If only I could make this message go viral,” and the ensuing media coverage has done just that. The commercial has been viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube since Monday. SodaStream has a revised version ready for the game, but when you figure the average Super Bowl ad runs around $4 million, all those extra YouTube views sure help justify the expense.
We play out this drama at the end of every football season, and only the lead actors change. GoDaddy, PETA, Bud Light, Snickers, Pornhub, Ashley Madison – all these companies have submitted ads in recent years that obviously were not going to make the cut, and they've all reaped rewards in free media attention. Banning books rarely makes them less popular. Why should Super Bowl commercials be any different?
L.A. Weekly left a message with SodaStream's corporate offices to suss out their expectations in producing the ScarJo spot. There's been no response yet (although they might be ducking media because of controversy about their factory in the West Bank). We dropped GoDaddy a line and got a reply with links to their current ad. But the folks at PETA were happy to chat about the organization's long history of rejected commercials.
“We're always hopeful to run the ad and we always have a donor standing by to fund actually running it,” says spokesperson Lindsay Rajt. “To us the rejection process seems very arbitrary.”
That might be the case, and some companies' provocative ads do clear the censors, but Rajt acknowledges lemonade is made either way: “I think the important thing to remember is the ads don't disappear just because they don't run on the Super Bowl. We do run those ads in local markets when they're rejected on the national level, and of course they go up on our website, PETA.org, where they get many, many views.”
The best of all possible worlds would be lots of buzz before the game and a slightly bowdlerized version in front of millions of amped football fans. Just like SodaStream has with its dig at Coke and Pepsi.
UPDATE: L.A. Weekly spoke on Thursday morning with Ilan Nacasch, SodaStream's chief marketing officer, and asked if the company created the ad for the sake of controversy.
“We didn't create that ad to be censored. We created that ad and the ad last year with more or less the same objective, which is to really establish SodaStream as a credible alternative to Coke and Pepsi,” says Nacasch. “Part of our strategy is to acknowledge our competition and really tease them and confront them. That's what we are doing in this ad. But the way we're doing it was not intended to be banned, because the way we're doing it perfectly conformed to all kinds of advertising standards in America, and that's why we're surprised, and shocked even, by FOX's decision to reject that line.”
But it hasn't been all bad.
“When life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade,” he says, “and SodaStream knows how to make a really good lemonade, especially with a lot of bubbles.”
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