US television network Fox on Monday rejected a Super Bowl ad by SodaStream, featuring actress Scarlet Johansson, over its digs at Coca-Cola and Pepsi, themselves major advertisers.
The commercial, which SodaStream posted on its YouTube page Monday, features Johansson extolling the virtues of the do-it-yourself carbonation kit as a means of “saving the world,” joking that as an actress, that is her real job. At the end of the 33-second clip, she turns to the camera and says, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.”
A shortened version of the ad without the line will air instead.
The controversy is not new for SodaStream; last year, CBS rejected their ad for the same reason.
“We didn’t get an explanation from Fox on why the ad was rejected,” SodaStream chief marketing officer Ilan Nacasch told The Jerusalem Post. “The only justification I can suspect is that there was pressure by companies to ban the ad, but I don’t know, I don’t want to make that allegation.”
Industry sources concurred that the mention of big advertisers was the likely cause for rejection; Pepsi is sponsoring the halftime show this year, and Coca-Cola is also a major ad-buyer.
“There is no justification whatsoever to censor that line,” Nacasch said. Super Bowl ads in previous years had no problem taking digs at rivals, whether Coca-Cola, Pepsi, IBM or Apple. “There’s nothing that bars you from mentioning the competition, as long as it’s not denigrating.”
A Fox Sports spokesman refused to comment on the reason the ad was rejected, saying its advertising guidelines were proprietary.
Some advertisers purposely make outrageous ads in order to garner more online attention when they are banned or rejected.
In 2013, GoDaddy referred viewers online to watch an “uncensored” version of its “banned” Super Bowl ad featuring a gross-out kiss between a nerd and model Bar Refaeli.
Nacasch, however, says that was not part of the plan.
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum told USA Today, “If I could get my money back, I’d be happy to be out of that deal.”
Earlier this week, Johansson faced down criticism of her participation with the company, which has a factory in Ma’aleh Adumim.
“I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine,” she wrote in The Huffington Post. “SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma’aleh Adumim factory every working day.”