Icelandic Water Holdings hf. has just joined a growing number of companies that are showing queer characters in their ads. The company’s Chairman and Co-founder Jón Ólafsson says that it felt like the right thing to do. And he’s very happy with the positive response.
“Well it felt like the right thing to do, just very natural, to include a gay character,” says Jón Ólafsson Chairman and Co-founder of Icelandic Water Holdings hf., when inquired about a new gay inclusive commercial, that the water bottling company has released.
The commercial is a modern twist on a classic Diet Coke (Break Super Bowl) ad from the 1994, where a group of women in an office plan their morning breaks in order to watch a construction worker take off his shirt to take a sip of his soda.
The new commercial sees office workers rushing to a window to catch a glimpse of a sexy guy, this time a surfer peeling off his wetsuit on a beach and then drinking bottled water. And one of the office employees, who are swooning over the hunky surfer, is a gay man.
“I believe people have the right to be who they are; that’s just basic human rights.”
Icelandic Water Holdings hf. has thereby joined a growing number of companies in the world, such as Tylenol, Macy’s, Wells Fargo, American Airlines, Chobani, IKEA and the Campbell Soup Company (Campbell’s), that have been featuring queer characters in their ads. Some of which have done so in support of marriage equality and queer rights in general.
Asked whether he is also a supporter of queer rights, Jón doesn’t hesitate. “Of course I am. I don’t discriminate between people based on their sexuality or their gender, race, faiths etc. In my mind people are people; either they’re good human beings, beautiful on the inside, or they’re not. Simple as that. And I believe people have the right to be who they are; that’s just basic human rights. Nobody should be forced to be somebody else.”
The Icelandic Glacial Water commercial – which was made specifically for social media and released in the days leading to Super Bowl – has already gotten a tremendous response; with 600.000 thousand views on Facebook (including the Facebook site of the commercial’s star, Brock O’Hurn), 47.000 views on YouTube, 52.000 likes on Instagram and 20.000 comments across platforms. Jón says he’s very happy with the reaction it’s gotten. “We’re very glad about that. The attention is just great.”
Coincidentally, Super Bowl was also very “queer” this year (or maybe it wasn’t a coincidence since it was held in San Francisco). Everything at the halftime show was for example covered in rainbows, from Coldplay singer Chris Martin’s shirt to the stage. And after the performances, the audience flipped over rainbow-colored placards that read: “Believe In Love” – an obvious endorsement of marriage equality. The reaction? Mostly positive. But there have also been some negative comments made online.
Asked what his thoughts are on the matter, Jón is very clear: “I just don’t see anything wrong it with when people are trying to raise public awareness,” he says, “when people are trying to raise awareness about important issues.”
Were you nervous that your commercial would be criticized because of the gay character?
“No, not the least,” he says with confidence. “And besides, the response has only been positive.”
The new Icelandic Glacial ad (may leave some people thirsty):
The Diet Coke ad from 1994 (featuring model Lucky Vanous):
Icelandic Water Holdings hf. exports products under the Icelandic Glacial brand from Hlíðarendi, Ölfuss, Iceland. The products are sold on 2o markets around the world, including The United States, Canada, Britain, France, China, South-Korea and Kuwait.
The company was established in 2004 by a group of private investors, including Jón Ólafsson and Kristján Ólafsson. The American beverage and brewing company Anheuser-Busch Inbev took a twenty percent ownership stake in Icelandic Water Holdings in 2007.
Photo right: Icelandic Water Holdings hf. has made world headlines several times in the past. Icelandic Glacial was the first water on the ground in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. And last month the company teamed up with pop singer Cher and sent 181,440 bottles of water to Flint in Michigan after citizens there were exposed to lead poisoning and other contaminants from a new water source.