Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In an Absolut World

When Absolut entered the U.S. market in 1979, it essentially created the superpremium vodka category, and its ads -- which merged its iconic bottle with equally iconic art-world figures -- were ideal for the brand's upmarket image.

Why in the world would a company, with one of the most iconic print campaigns throughout advertising history based on various iterations of their distinct bottle, want to change their advertising strategy after having established an almost cult-like following?

According to Ian Crystal, Absolut's brand director, the vodka maker had been declining in the US market over the past few years. Furthermore, executives attributed Absolut's sluggishness as partially a result of an ad campaign that had fallen out of step with its product's place in the market.

But the past decade or so has seen an explosion of far-pricier brands such as Grey Goose, Belvedere, Chopin and others that have essentially relegated Absolut to midshelf status.

Enter "In an Absolut World". Spots on cable TV -- the brand's first major push into the medium -- depicted police fending off pillow-wielding rioters in an "Absolut World." Print ads showed Times Square filled with priceless artwork and pregnant men.

The "In an Absolut World" theme also ran worldwide: Visitors to Germany found airport taxi lines filled with Porsches, as well as an ATM that dispensed free money.

The results?

According to the company, global case shipments jumped 9%, and Absolut gained market share in the crowded and increasingly competitive U.S. market -- no easy feat for a mature brand trying to fend off an ever-expanding pool of upstarts.

Absolut wouldn't divulge details about 2008 plans, but said the campaign's executions would get "bigger and bolder."

Could we have the makings of yet another iconic campaign from the Vodka maker?