Whatever are the people at Sodastream complaining about? Having their ad pulled from television – in this case by the donkeys at the TV advertising clearing house Clearcast – is a gift. It’s the sort of thing Rupert Howell and his team at HHCL used to have wet dreams about – the possibility of the regulator stepping in and banning their latest offering for Tango. Think of the attendant publicity, a priceless multiple of the original advertising budget.
And all the more so in Sodastream’s case. Back then, in the Tango era, YouTube and the viral were waiting to be discovered. What’s more Sodastream seems to have a case based upon rectitude rather than meretricious provocation. Any reasonable man on the Clapham omnibus would have difficulty in understanding the legitimacy of Clearcast’s complaint. Judge for yourselves:
What I see in this ad is each squirt of Sodastream saving you (and the environment) the cost of thousands of eco-unfriendly glass bottles a year. The claim is a trifle exaggerated perhaps, unless that squirt is a metaphorical one signifying a year’s usage of the soda-water maker, but its basis is surely unexceptionable. To any, that is, but those sitting in judgement at Clearcast, which represents the five major UK commercial TV companies.
And which bit of the governing Code of Advertising Practice (CAP), do the regulators believe Sodastream has transgressed? Well not, interestingly, 3.12 “Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service.” No, they’ve gone for : 3.42 “Advertisements must not discredit or denigrate another product, advertiser or advertisement or a trade mark, trade name or other distinguishing mark.”
Come again? Let’s look at that ad, in slow motion. Where’s the “product, advertiser or advertisement or a trade mark, trade name or other distinguishing mark” – unless that last be a glass bottle? I’m one with Fiona Hope – the former Coke executive ultimately in charge of Sodastream’s UK advertising – here: it’s very hard to see how Clearcast, and subsequently its appeal committee, a) arrived at the notion that the ad “denigrates” the bottled drinks industry; and b) in what way article 3.42 of CAP is relevant justification for that view. Oddest of all is the fact that nowhere else in the world has the Sodastream campaign, devised by Alex Bogusky’s new advertising vehicle Common, fallen foul of the regulatory authorities.
Clearcast, as a matter of tactics, would surely have been better advised to let the Sodastream ad air and allow the bottled drinks industry, whatever that is, to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority – the proper forum for this kind of debate. Instead, the stubborn intransigence of its appeals committee has left Clearcast staked out in an indefensible Alamo of a position.
Roll on Hope’s legal challenge to Clearcast’s judgement. Whichever way it goes, Sodastream can be confident of acres of free publicity – which should help UK sales no end.