Bottled water industry wins small victory against Sodastream over 'Game of Thrones' ad

The use of an f-bomb meant that a video ad for Sodastream featuring characters from Game of Thrones was irresponsibly targeted on YouTube, according to the ads standards watchdog.

The ad was created by Dutch agency Allenby Concept House, and caused a hot-tempered face-off between the home carbonation brand and the International Bottled Water Association when it landed last November.

Based around a parody of a famous sequence from the HBO drama in which Cersei Lannister is paraded naked through the streets of King’s Landing (below), SodaStream’s ad features Hannah Waddingham as her Games of Thrones character Septa Unella, following a man as he leaves a supermarket carrying two heavy cases of sparkling water.

The man delivers the water to Thor Bjornsson, also in character as villain The Mountain, who berates him for "hurting Mother Earth" by carrying "shameful polluting plastic bottles", before demonstrating the alternative – SodaStream.

The Advertising Standards Authority received complaints about both the video ad, and a SodaStream webpage, from bottled water industry body the Natural Hydration Council, and two members of the public, on numerous grounds.

The watchdog considered a suggestion the ad was offensive and harmful, but determined that the humorous tone of the ad, and its surreal juxtaposition of medieval and modern imagery, meant it was unlikely to cause offence.

It also rejected two claims about the messaging of the ad: that it exaggerated the environmental benefits of SodaStream’s product, and that it misleadingly implied that the sparkling water produced by SodaStream was equivalent to naturally sourced sparkling water.

In fact, the ad fell afoul of the ASA because of the use of a single word. Bjornsson closes his speech by saying "fuck plastic bottles", and it is the use of the expletive that crossed the line – because this meant it had been inappropriately targeted on YouTube.

The watchdog acknowledged that the strong language was in keeping with Games of Thrones, and that the ad had only been served to users who were logged in and aged 25 or over, and was targeted towards those with an interest in the show, SodaStream or bodybuilding.

But it said the ad could have been seen by people without those interests, and regardless of this, viewers would not expect to be served an ad that featured the word "fuck".

YouTube said the ad was in violation of its advertising policy, and had already taken steps to make sure it did not run again.

The original walk of shame

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