Mad World: Absolut Commercials

Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

When a conversation turns to branding (and don’t all of your conversations turn to branding?) the efforts of Absolut Vodka, the little alcohol company that could, are inevitably evoked. There’s good reason behind this, too. Although ads for alcohol are extremely problematic, Absolut has certainly made a name for itself with a distinct brand. In fact, I’d bet that most of you can conjure up an Absolut ad, complete with their unique typeface and slogans, without even having to consult your Google image search. It looks something like this, right?

Absolut ads are distinct, minimalist, and are often hiding a disturbing message (hello suggesting people who drink vodka should take their tops off). Still, they’re memorable. That’s why I’ve been a little surprised lately to see Absolut eschew their brand for an over-the-top cinematic spot (one that is still loaded with messages about gender, of course). Behold:

This ad will eventually be made into an actual short film, which is weird. Although not completely unheard of, since Absolut has produced short film versions of its commercials in the recent past. Still, what is it about an ad that would make us want to watch a 15-minute version of it? Is it just that ads like this one draw on cinematic tropes? Wouldn’t we rather just watch a 70s action film than a vodka ad pretending to be one? The content of the ad itself is nothing new, really. A woman (Ali Larter) has a sweet and a sour side (or a Madonna and a whore side, or whatever) and she uses both to get what she wants. She also uses a skintight jumpsuit. Surprise! Except we aren’t surprised. What is actually surprising is that a company with a distinct brand that, while sending weird messages at least doesn’t typically show women in skintight jumpsuits, would suddenly get on the exploitation/spoof/cheesecake/fake trailer train. What gives? I guess my point with all of these rhetorical questions is that if the folks behind Absolut—a company considered to be at the top of the branding game—are choosing to market their product in this way, it’s got to signify some sort of a trend (or they made a huge mistake, which is also possible). They must believe that audiences will respond better to a fake movie trailer starring Ali Larter and a couple of kittens than they will to their tried, true, and lauded print marketing efforts. If this is in fact a trend, what do you think of it? Do you like these cinematic trailers because they offer a bit more entertainment than your typical commercial? Will you watch the longer version of Lemon Drop when its released later this summer? (Oh, and by “released” I mean “posted on Facebook.”) Do these ads work? Just to add one more log o’ weirdness to the fire, I can’t conclude this post on Absolut’s new film-based marketing without this viral video, which was apparently commissioned by Absolut though it could obviously never run on television:

Absolut Progress? Or Absolut Misstep? Let’s have an Absolut Discussion. (Feel free to keep the Absolut jokes going in the comments section, of course.) OH_Logo.jpg

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH’s grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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3 Comments Have Been Posted

Absolut-ly Pointless

This reminds me of Dita von Teese's (Tesse? Teese? Tesse?) interactive campaign for Perrier, in which she plays "stripping games" with the people at their computers (including one in which she "punishes" them for unwanted touches.) So far, this Absolut shtick doesn't feel as gross or problematic as that one, but I still don't care for it. Partly it's because I'm not into '70s exploitation films or their modern homages, but watching a 15-minute ad for liquor I can't afford is never my idea of fun.

Absolut Crestfallen

It's upsetting to me because Absolut was one of the few brands whose ads were not populated exclusively by girls in bikinis in order to sell alcohol. They have been so clever and witty that they have thereby _proven_ that you don't need to be exploitative to sell a product and to receive awards. Absolut has also historically been a great supporter of the GLBT community. I _love_ their ads on the Logo channel that feature contestants of RuPaul's Drag Race. They've supported and featured up and coming artists as well and really tailored their print ads toward the readership of a particular periodical in an extremely canny way. These are the reasons this latest campaign is so disappointing to me. To see that kind of cheesy (not even clever! or funny!) advertising from Captain Morgan or Skyy would not even get my attention. My opinion? Absolut Fall From Grace.

I can't think of any puns

Just going off those quick 30 seconds, it strikes me as very superficial about the grindhouse influences. It's the difference between Planet Terror and Death Proof in that the latter is much more than skin-deep. Of course, it's just 30 seconds and in order to really come to a conclusion, I'd have to watch the longer movie. Which just goes back to whether or not I want to watch that anyways. For what it's worth, I'd rather watch the entirety of Grindhouse.

Give me David Lynch's crazy cigarette ads any day.

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