For the second year in a row, SodaStream, which sells a product allowing people to make their own soda at home, has been told by the network hosting the Super Bowl that a commercial that they submitted needs to be edited. As was the case last year, the reason behind the editing is that SodaStream mentions soda giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi in its ad.
This year’s ad features superstar actress Scarlett Johansson enjoying a drink from a SodaStream drink maker and saying to the camera, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.” Fox, which is the network showing the big game this year, has asked the company to remove that last line. Last year, CBS asked the company to remove all mentions of Coke and Pepsi. As the commercial they submitted featured two truck drivers, one with a Coca-Cola jacket on, the other wearing a Pepsi jacket, SodaStream decided against trying to edit that commercial. They ran an older ad instead.
SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum insists that he wanted to run both ads unedited and that this is not an attempt to get cheap publicity. Basically, he thinks it is a common theme for companies to mention their competitors in their advertising and feels that the TV networks are kowtowing to the soda giants as a way to appease them. Birnbaum had this to say to USA Today regarding Fox nixing the line:
“What are they afraid of? Which advertiser in America doesn’t mention a competitor? This is the kind of stuff that happens in China. I’m disappointed as an American.”
The man makes a legitimate point here. It is nothing to see Pepsi and Coke go after each other in their commercials. The large breweries do it all the time. Insurance companies, banks, investment firms, etc. It seems as long as you are one of the big boys bringing tons of advertising dollars to the networks, then nothing is off limits. However, if you are an up-and-comer who is trying to nose your way in and perhaps grab a little bit of a giant’s market share, then you need to be smacked down and told to know your place.
The standard response from Pepsi and Coke will be that they did not tell Fox what to do with the ad. Quite likely, this is correct. Then again, they didn’t need to. The major networks see how much advertising revenue they get from the mega-corporations. Hell, all of the major networks are parts of mega-corporations themselves, so they know how the game is played. If you aren’t one of the big boys, then too bad for you. You are going to have to do what they tell you if you want to play in their sandbox. In fact, just be glad you’re even allowed in the sandbox.