When we hear Scarlett Johansson, we think cinema, blonde, sexy, maybe latest Marvel movie as well. But lately, Scarlett Johansson’s name has been associated with a much serious matter after she chose to appear in a Sodastream ad that will air during the Super Bowl in the USA.
The Israeli company manufactures home carbonation systems that allow consumers to produce their own sodas at home. Their message has always been the eco-friendly part of their business but what has been left unsaid for some time is that they maintain a large factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, a territory captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by Palestinians. Recently, pro-palestinian activists have tried to draw the attention of the media and the public opinion on that matter, with some success, as many people have started boycotting the brand.
When Scarlett Johansson was revealed as the new brand ambassador though, it became a problem for Oxfam, a charity she has been an ambassador for since 2005. Indeed, Oxfam International opposes ‘all trade’ from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights (source : telegraph.co.uk).
Scarlett Johansson has then decided to resign as an ambassador for the group, citing a ‘fundamental difference of opinion’. Following criticism, she released a statement on the Huffington Post’s blog (full statement here), saying that ‘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.’
Should Scarlett Johansson have thought twice before endorsing Sodastream while knowingly supporting Oxfam ? Probably, or she should have sought advice from a good PR practitioner beforehand. The power activists have today over organisations and their management decisions is not to be taken lightly. In their article ‘Fringe public relations: How activism moves critical pr toward the mainstream’, Coombs and Holladay declare that ‘the activists act as the antithesis to the organization’s thesis. Synthesis occurs when the organization considers the needs of the activists.’ In that case, that’s exactly what happened to poor Scarlett, when Oxfam decided to push her towards the exit after activists’ criticism became louder and louder. However, instead of apologising, Scarlett Johansson chose to stand by her choice, resisting to the pressure. Bold move ? Certainly, but from a PR point of view, Miss Johansson should be careful when show business gets mixed with politics, as her reputation might take a big hit from this controversy, especially at a time when Israel and Palestine are conducting US-backed peace talks.
A recent video where Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe demolishes Scarlett Johansson’s support for Sodastream. Quite funny.
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