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Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream Ad Controversy refers to the online backlash surrounding American actress Scarlett Johansson’s formal endorsement of SodaStream, an Israeli home carbonation product company which runs one of its factories inside Ma’ale Adumim, the third largest Jewish settlement in the disputed territory of the West Bank.
On January 10th, 2014, SodaStream unveiled Scarlett Johansson as the company’s “global brand ambassador” and model for its upcoming TV commercial to be premiered during the Super Bowl on February 2nd.
News Media Coverage
In the following days, the company’s announcement was covered by a number of Israeli news outlets as well as English-language business news sites overseas, including Haaretz, Forbes, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and Bloomberg, with many articles juxtaposing SodaStream’s latest endorsement deal with its most recent report of the company’s largest decline in its stock shares since 2011.
On January 12th, 2014, Middle Eastern political blog Mondoweiss picked up on the story in an article titled “Scarlett Johansson for SodaStream: ‘Set the bubbles free’ but keep the Palestinians bottled in Area A,” bringing an emphasis to the company’s operation of a factory in the internationally disputed Mishor Adumim Industrial Zone. Written by Mondoweiss’ editor-at-large Annie Robbins, her column prompted nearly 100 comments from the readers.
On January 13th, Al Jazeera’s The Stream blog first reported on the emerging online backlash against the American actress and her endorsement deal from Pro-Palestinian supporters, citing several comments in the Mondoweiss article as well as a round-up of tweets reacting to the news. Then on January 15th, The Daily Beast called the accuracy of Al Jazeera’s report into question, arguing that the so-called controversy on Twitter merely consisted of four angry tweets.
On January 23rd, the international humanitarian organization OxFam released a statement criticizing the business partnership between SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson, who has served as an ambassador for the group since 2007.
We are proud of our relationship with Scarlett Johansson who has worked with Oxfam since 2005 to support Oxfam’s mission to end poverty and injustice. As an Oxfam Global Ambassador, she has travelled to India, Sri Lanka and Kenya to highlight the impact of traumatic disasters and chronic poverty, and she has helped to raise critical funds for life-saving and poverty-fighting work around the world. We deeply value her support.
Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors. However Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.
We have been engaged in dialogue with Scarlett Johansson and she has now expressed her position in a statement, including stressing her pride in her past work with Oxfam. Oxfam is now considering the implications of her new statement and what it means for Ms. Johansson’s role as an Oxfam global ambassador.
On January 25th, Abe Greenhouse tweeted a photoshopped image of Johansson sipping on a SodaStream-made drink set to the backdrop of Palestinians crowded in a West Bank security checkpoint.
#ScarlettJohansson’s #SodaStream Endorsement Deal Conflicts w/ Charity Work http://t.co/cY4rxILPuv
nytimes</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Oxfam">Oxfam pic.twitter.com/QUwmXQoDuR
— Maie ⭐ (@Maie_AD) January 26, 2014
— Stephanie Westbrook (@stephinrome) January 25, 2014
Scarlett Johansson’s Response
On January 27th, the actress released an official statement to address the backlash via Huffington Post, clarifying that she “never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance as part of my affiliation with SodaStream” while defending the company’s operation of a factory in the West Bank:
While I never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance as part of my affiliation with SodaStream, given the amount of noise surrounding that decision, I’d like to clear the air.
I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. 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’ale Adumim factory every working day. As part of my efforts as an Ambassador for Oxfam, I have witnessed first-hand that progress is made when communities join together and work alongside one another and feel proud of the outcome of that work in the quality of their product and work environment, in the pay they bring home to their families and in the benefits they equally receive.
I believe in conscious consumerism and transparency and I trust that the consumer will make their own educated choice that is right for them. I stand behind the SodaStream product and am proud of the work that I have accomplished at Oxfam as an Ambassador for over 8 years. Even though it is a side effect of representing SodaStream, I am happy that light is being shed on this issue in hopes that a greater number of voices will contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two state solution in the near future.
The Motley Fool – Can Scarlett Johansson Make SodaStream Sexy Again?
The Daily Beast – Al Jazeera’s Puny Controversy Over Scarlett Johansson and Sodastream
Huffington Post – Scarlett Johansson Releases Statement On SodaStream Criticism
Business Week – SodaStream Sinks Most Since 2011 as Profit Trails Estimates
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