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Set the bubbles free…

Posted by in blog December 11, 2012

The saga of sustainability is very much a journey of two steps forward, one step backwards. We watch as progress pioneers into new areas such as diverse renewable energy, as smart phones overtake cars for connectivity as sharing bites into owning as a meme…

But then there are the reverse lurches backwards, the retro reactions that drag us in the opposite direction. A few years ago we at Futerra were playing with the idea of ‘disruptive innovators’, companies that could play a real role in challenging dominant industries. We were in cliched consultancy terms ‘thinking out of the box’.

Our goal was, like our very own ‘Swishing’, to identify ways to meet existing needs and aspirations with radically sustainable or dematerialised alternatives. ‘What about SodaStream?’ someone suggested. Those of us raised in the 70’s and 80’s all remember the get busy with the fizzy’ strapline (that ad is worth watching just for the nostalgia!), the sticky plastic unit on the kitchen work surface and the excitement of pressing the button to release the explosive techno-fart of compressed carbon dioxide into the drink. It was chemistry, physics, engineering and pop all in one!

Our Futerra-isation idea was to reposition SodaStream as a sustainable alternative to the enormous fizzy drinks plastic bottle market. Over 629B bottles and cans are manufactured each year and with global recycling rates at less than 30% that means a BILLION bottles going into landfill or ending up as litter every single day. Something the Onion has mused on entertainingly before.

So when I read this PR News Wire report on SodaStream’s TV ad campaign, due to air during primetime recently, being ‘pulled’ by the TV industry’s self-appointed ‘regulator’ Clearcast (an organisation founded by Broadcasters themselves which somewhat undermines its notion of independence – unlike the Advertising Standards Authority) I was somewhat livid.

Clearcast’s decision to pull SodaStream’s ad (which you can watch online here) is apparently based on the fact it’s claim to ‘save 1000 bottles a year’ is somehow a ‘denigration of the bottled drinks market’. Seriously. I’m not sure which one of Clearcast’s Guidelines this contravenes, but there we go. Despite this supposedly terrible slurring of such a noble sector the ad has aired successfully and without scandal in the US, Sweden and Australia.

In an age of Greenwash it seems to me a tragedy that a provocative campaign should be nipped in the bud because it challenges powerful vested interests. It doesn’t take much detective work to conclude that cash-strapped broadcasters dependent on advertising revenue might just choose to ban an ad that compromises the business prospects of some of their big spenders. It’s just a thought.

For my money I think Clearcast should reconsider their decision, allow the ad to be broadcast and take the debate about plastic waste more public. To do otherwise seems about as unfashionable as that 1980 SodaStream ad. It really is time to set the bubbles free…


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  • ed
    December 11, 2012

    One of my Swedish colleagues just pointed this out to me: http://www.palestinemonitor.org/?p=7636

    Whilst the bubbles should definitely, ultimately be set free…there may be more pressing freedoms…

    • December 12, 2012

      Well, I never knew that. However, whilst I agree that SodaStream clearly needs to address the West Bank issue, the ad should be allowed to stand, otherwise Clearcast is in danger of damaging its own integrity based on the specific role it has in the ad business. My (very brief) thoughts here – http://oqonomics.com/sodastream-clearcast/

      • ed
        December 12, 2012

        Thanks Andy. I agree. The West Bank issue needs urgent attention in itself, & probably heavily damages any eco-credentials Sodastream might claim…

        But the principle of banning an ad for denigrating an existing industry is a worrying precedent! Would Clearcast ban a WhipCar ad for ‘denigrating the car industry’?!