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Sodastream ad controversy bubbles on

December 5, 2012

Sodastream adWhatever are the people at Sodastream complaining about? Having their ad pulled from television by the donkeys at Clearcast, the TV advertising vetting service, 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 5 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.

One possible explanation for Clearcast’s bizarre behaviour is that the advisory committee suspected Bogusky of mounting a veiled assault on Coca-Cola – no small TV advertiser. As is well known, Bogusky – the former “B” in CP+B – was once creative servitor of the Coke Zero account. Now the breakaway wunderkind – and healthy-living freak – seems intent on war to the knife against his former paymaster. Note, for instance, this recent video for the Center for Science in the Public Interest that pillories Coke in all but name.

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 may be) 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.

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.

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Ogilvy wins $300m global Coke Zero account…

December 15, 2010

…Something that has come as a bit of a shock to VCCP, which handles the £35m business in Europe, McCann Erickson – responsible for South-Asia, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky – the same, in the USA – who didn’t even know they were in a competition.

Why has Coca-Cola been so reluctant to disclose the fact that there has been a pitch at all, let alone that Ogilvy & Mather has won it? It’s a mystery. Although on the existing roster, Ogilvy has thus far been in charge of Latin America only. It’s not the most promising piece of Zero terrain (Latin Americans’ aversion to the ‘toxic’ aspartame infusing the brew is well known). Then again, maybe Ogilvy just had to fight that much harder to come up with a winning idea.

Two years ago, Coke instituted, at considerable expense, a European review which ended with VCCP triumphing over Wieden & Kennedy and Argentinian agency Santo. It was part of a global consolidation of agencies aimed at delivering stringent “marketing efficiencies”. At the time, coke CEO Muhtar Kent noted: “Agency numbers have gone down by more than half, and I think we have driven a lot of efficiencies in our market research costs, in our marketing over the past 12 months.”

Evidently not quite enough of them, judging from Coke’s recent conduct. The current “secret” review appears to be aimed at developing a single, global, advertising concept. I have not idea at this stage what that might be. Apply to Ogilvy Paris, which will be handling the global campaign.

Huge thought the win is, Ogilvy should remember that today’s favourite may be tomorrow’s casualty. In its agency relationships, Coke is beginning to resemble a gangster playing Russian roulette. Who will be the last agency standing?

There’s more on the nature of the win, and the turbid roster politics of Coke Zero, in an article by Joe Fernandez on Pitch.

UPDATE 16/12/10: Coke, under pressure, is now claiming “This [the Ogilvy] appointment does not affect local market agency relationships on Coke Zero.” Not much it doesn’t. Most of the money will now be flowing to Ogilvy. Still, you’ve got to keep the rest of the troops happy.


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