Icelandic company goes gay in new commercial

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.

Jon is a serial entrepreneur with history in media, telecommunications, banking, construction and consumer products. Jon began his career in music and films and built Iceland's biggest media corporation, Northern Lights Communications, spanning TV, radio, mobile, cinemas, music retail stores and recording studios.
Jón Ólafsson is an entrepreneur with a history in media, telecommunications, banking, construction and consumer products. Jón started his career in films and music and built the Icelandic media corporation, Norðurljós (Northern Lights Communications) which is now called 365. Photo/Courtesy of Icelandic Water Holdings hf.

“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.

King of Man Buns The man showing off his buff body and unleashing his man bun in the new Icelandic Glacial Water commercial is Brock O'Hurn. O'Hurn became a social media sensation by posting a video clip of himself pulling his long hair into a top knot on Instagram. The clip has received 5 millions views on Facebook since it was posted, and O'Hurn has 1.7 millions followers on Instagram.
King of Man Buns The man showing off his buff body and unleashing his man bun in the new Icelandic Glacial Water commercial is model/actor Brock O’Hurn. O’Hurn became a social media sensation by posting a video clip of himself pulling his long hair into a top knot on Instagram. The clip has received 5 millions views on Facebook since it was posted, and O’Hurn has 1.8 millions followers on Instagram.

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.
Singer Cher and Icelandic Water Holdings ehf. sent thousands of bottles of water to Flint last month after the water there got contaminated.
Singer Cher and Icelandic Water Holdings hf. sent thousands of bottles of water to Flint last month after the water there got contaminated.

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.

Main photo: Screen shot from new Icelandic Glacial Water ad, featuring Instagram stud Brock O’Hurn.


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