The Fox television network has told SodaStream International that it must make changes to its Super Bowl spot -- the one Chattanooga's Humanaut creative consulting company helped create -- if it's to run in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.
A year ago, CBS rejected SodaStream's Super Bowl ad, which the men behind Humanaut also worked on, because the spot targeted Coca-Cola and Pepsi, inferring that their mass bottling can be cut out if consumers opt for a home soda-making machine.
SodaStream complied with CBS last year and released an alternate commercial for the game, but not before voicing their displeasure. Things are shaking out about the same this time around.
"I think most people would assume that if you can afford a Super Bowl commercial you would be given the same rights to mention your competitors that the big boys are given," Alex Bogusky, Humanaut investor and creative adviser, said in an email.
Bogusky last year introduced SodaStream and David Littlejohn, a creative consultant who went on to found Humanaut in Chattanooga, where he is chief creative director.
This year, SodaStream again asked Littlejohn and his Chattanooga company to help them come up with an ad for TV's biggest stage. This year's spot features actress Scarlett Johansson, SodaStream's new global spokeswoman, using a SodaStream machine and drinking her own homemade soda.
At the end of the 30 second commercial -- which is estimated to have cost about $4 million, according to Ad Age -- Johansson mentions Coca-Cola and Pepsi. And Littlejohn said that's the part Fox executives want gone.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi are both major advertisers for this year's Super Bowl on Fox and Pepsi is sponsoring the half-time show.
"After getting rejected last year for taking on Coke and Pepsi, we knew this was a possibility," Littlejohn said in an email. "But last year we had huge Coke and Pepsi trucks and their bottles disappearing. This year we got rejected for Scarlett just saying the words 'Sorry Coke and Pepsi.'"
SodaStream executives last week spoke out against Fox's decision concerning the ad. This week, Bogusky and Littlejohn joined chorus.
"[T]he sad truth is the airways are full of double standards designed to protect the status quo," said Bogusky. "Which is a shame when a company like SodaStream offers a way to use less disposable bottles and consume less sugar. These are big issues and the network has decided to stand in the way of potential progress."
Littlejohn said considering the venue is, after all, a football game, Fox's decision seems tone deaf.
"It's crazy that brands apparently aren't allowed to compete with each other during the Super Bowl, a night that's all about competition and rivalry," he said.
Nonetheless, SodaStream executives said they will edit Johansson's remarks toward Coca-Cola and Pepsi out of the commercial so that it can air on Sunday.
Littlejohn doesn't think it's a loss. He thinks it's the result of SodaStream's being the little soda in a big soda world.
"Every game needs an underdog," he said. "We hope people will remember that during the Pepsi halftime show.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at email@example.com or 423-757-6480.