Israel’s do-it-yourself (and environmentally friendly) soft drink maker SodaStream may go down in the record books as having created the most provocative Super Bowl commercial that never aired on TV, but it’s having a hell of an afterlife on YouTube, racking up over 11 million views since its Monday release.
For the second year straight the brand has been censored by TV networks for taking on drinks giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi, perennial Super Bowl sponsors. This year’s ad stars actress Scarlett Johansson who closes the bit with a cheeky, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.”
You can see the unedited advertisement below.
But the real commotion is the conflict of interest between the sexy starlet’s dual roles as SodaStream’s “global brand ambassador” and global ambassador for Oxfam. Johansson had served with Oxfam since 2007, raising funds and promoting awareness about global poverty; she signed on last month with SodaStream International Ltd. to be the face of the brand.
All fine, until you consider where the drinks are made.
SodaStream’s principal manufacturing facility is located in the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, the occupied West Bank’s third largest settlement. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem asserts that the settlement, including the land on which the factory sits, was taken from five Palestinian towns and two Bedouin tribes evicted during one of the largest land expropriations of Israel’s 46 year occupation of the West Bank.
B’Tselem is a left-wing organization who posits in this direction. But other groups in Israel say that the land is in ambiguous territory as it belonged to Jordan before the 1967 conflict.
In a statement published on their website, Oxfam said: “We have made our concerns known to Ms. Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important matters… Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”
EU has stated that the settlements are “illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.”
The Israeli government, and many of its people, disputes this.
Presumably after a long think, Johansson chose to resign from Oxfam. A statement released by her spokesman said the actress has “a fundamental difference of opinion” with Oxfam International.
Enough with human rights and politics, let’s move to economics.
According to Bloomberg, the company’s share price dropped 26% on January 13 after failing to meet projected annual earnings. But this was also the first day of trading after signing with Johansson. The company’s stock dropped another 3.3% on Monday to $35.34, the lowest level in over a year. Today it is up 7%.
How much of this is chalked up to overly optimistic sales metrics – as opposed to – fall-out from the link to a celebrity’s ill-advised moral compass – or – to a company’s flat-footed refusal to see the political implications associated with their facilities’ zip code?
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said the company will not abandon its West Bank factory, which employs both Israelis and Palestinians.
Meanwhile SodaStream faces some stiff competition from Coke; as Coke just announces a $1.25 billion stake in Green Mountain, a company that is planning to produce a fizzy drink machine to be released in 2015.