We are unable to create an online viewer for this document. Please download the document instead.
ABSOLUT IMMORTALITY Rashmi Athlekar Roll NO. 14 Student of: Post Graduate Programme in Communications Management for Executives (PGPCMX) Page 1 of 18 Abstract: The Absolut Vodka advertising campaign has been running non-stop since 1981. It’s been over 20 years, which in advertising, is practically forever. Industry insiders hail it as one of the most successful campaigns in the history of advertising. It is rarely that one comes across ads which cut on the copy to focus on the visual appeal. Absolut Vodka is one such campaign. The star of the ads is always the beautiful, artful, chameleon-like bottle from Sweden. It’s brilliant because it focuses on the visual to convey the message. The Absolut ads are celebrated as much for their ingenuity as their longevity. They are full of wit, artistry, and imagination as they deftly communicate the brand’s values, often containing little challenges to the reader to interpret just what’s happening inside the ad. The advertising campaign has won many awards, including charter membership in the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Hall of Fame. It was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 along with just two other brands: Coca Cola and Nike. The advertising campaign was conceived by TBWA Advertising. In the ensuing report, I am going to analyze the print ads for this brand and the role it played in shaping the destiny of ABSOLUT. I will attempt to uncover the intriguing usage of symbols and signs used to convey the message of the brand. There are a variety of themes that the agency worked on e.g. Product, Objects, Cities, Art, Holidays etc. Page 2 of 18 Absolut Beginning: While taking a look at the communication messages and making meaning of it, it was necessary to delve into the past of the brand (before the whole ad campaign was planned). The reason we’re doing this is to trace how the layers kept adding up to the brand imagery. • Absolut Vodka is a Swedish brand of vodka, produced near Åhus, Scania, in southern Sweden • Although, it was an unrefined product, it nonetheless contained some of the world’s finest raw ingredients: pure Swedish water and rich Swedish wheat • Lars Olsson Smith called the product Absolut rent branvin, Swedish for “Absolut pure vodka” • Earlier in 1970, the Swedish government had taken control of the production and distribution of the beverage alcohol industry, including Absolut • By the late 1970’s, it was clear that if the distillery was to survive, Abosult would have to become an export product • The brand owners in Stockholm, Vin & Spirit, knew what market they had to tap- America • In the 1970s America accounted for 60% of the vodka consumed in the free world • However,99% of the vodka consumed in America was produced in America and most of it was very inexpensive • Conventional wisdom held that “all vodkas are alike,” due to the relative ease of production, the few ingredients necessary, and the fact that no aging is required, as with Scotch and other whiskeys • Also, because most consumers combined their vodka with orange juice, tomato juice, tonic or any number of other mixers they didn’t much care about the underlying quality of the vodka: the cheaper the better Page 3 of 18 • The remaining 1% imported vodka market in America was dominated by Stolichnaya, the Russian vodka • Stolichnaya was imported since 1968 by a subsidiary of the Pepsi-Cola company as payment, in lieu of hard currency for the Pepsi sold in the Soviet Union • Created specifically for export, it was good vodka, some of Russia’s finest, and the only Russian vodka “officially” exported to America • Being Russian, Stoli possessed a seamless authenticity for many Americans: from the czars to the revolution to the summit meetings, vodka and Russia have long been synonymous in consumers’ minds • Most of the vodkas made in America even have Russian sounding names: Smirnoff, Romanoff ,Georgi • By 1978, Vin & Sprit was ready to test the waters. It sent a delegation to the United States • The next move was to find a distributor in the US. They met reception colder than a chilled cocktail glass. "Who has ever heard of a Swedish vodka?! And it doesn't have a label; it'll disappear on the shelf. It will never sell!!" • One company that didn't lack foresight was Carillion Importers Ltd. based on Manhattan. Page 4 of 18 Absolut Info: Absolut would be product that didn’t take itself too seriously. It would be a Did you k now? product that could laugh at itself. The photoshoot of ABSOLUT bottle was a tough cookie to crack. The photographer said “The The customer profile of ABSOLUT- Probably out of college, starting a career, bottle is like a big lens; anything put behind it is or on their first or second job, they were experiencing the nightlife, the arts, distorted and reversed.” Rather than shoot the the museums that the Big City offered. The agency, TBWA, the agency, was bottle in front of a black background, he chose to also a very early supporter of media directed toward the gay and lesbian place a sheet of matte Plexiglas behind it, and communities. The agency introduced this segment to the Absolut officials in illuminate it with a soft glow.the early eighties as a segment predisposed to purchasing premium products. Absolut was one of the first consumer brands to openly embrace the gay community and view its members as important and desirable consumers of its product. Its ads have appeared in gay media since 1981, and the company has long sponsored major gay events, including the 2000 fall line of Tom of Finland clothing. Page 5 of 18 Analysis of the Ads: Theme Product Ad: These are called Product Ads because they still feature Absolut Vodka inside the actual glass bottle. Absolut Piercing Discourse: The subculture of the gay & punk communities in America in the late 1960’s Signifier: I. The piercing on the bottle is the signifier. The accessory shown here is symbolic of modern subculture that was gaining momentum-particularly the gay subculture. This ad was also released during the time II. The piercing is also symbolic of a non-conformist fashion statement. Further it is symbolic of using human body as a canvas to express the freedom from the societal norms or code of conduct Signified: Openly talking about experimenting with your body is the signification that comes through visually in the ad. This is highlighted with the effect of light in the background. It works as a limelight. In this case the bottle is no longer just a bottle, but a metaphor of the human body. The recognition of people who subscribe to the concept of being experimentative with their body is the Page 6 of 18 subtext. The upright body language of the bottle perhaps has a direct association to the human posture & brings out the assertiveness of the person to stand up and make a statement to the world. The ad gives them this space to voice their openness. This space then becomes their platform of self-expression. Almost as if to say, this is me & I am comfortable with myself and the way I want to experiment with my body. The endeavor of the marketer is to no longer keep it restricted to drinking vodka but to make the bottle an icon that is relevant to them. This icon is then expected to be embraced by them. The colour coding of a black background dramatises the way they have emerged. Gay as a phenomenon isn’t new to the world & has been in existence since ancient times. The black background shows how these people may have actually come out from the darkness or the shadows which they were hiding behind to an open platform into the limelight. They can now assert their sexual preferences. Page 7 of 18 Absolut Clarity: Discourse: The tension in the relationship between USA & Soviet Union Signifier: I. The magnifying glass as the object used to emphasize the name and the country from where Absolut Vodka comes Signified: The time period in which this ad was published was around the time when the Soviet Union was particularly unpopular in the United States due to its invasion of Afghanistan and later, the downing of a Korean jetliner, this ad subtly emphasized the fact that Absolut was made in Sweden, not in Russia. It was common knowledge that Vodka was synonymous with Russia. Despite speaking of it’s origin from Sweden on the product itself. Most people who consumed the drink did not decode the message directly. It’s the same phenomenon of how people due to sub-conscious conditioning at times fill in the gaps as they have embedded in their minds. I draw logic from the research done wherein people look at the first and the last word & are able to understand the word, irrespective of the spelling in between being right or wrong. In the same manner vodka comes from Russia was the popular belief and one would tend to take that for granted. If at all Page 8 of 18 they were to read that this particular vodka is from Sweden, it wouldn’t ever occur to them as being of that great importance, simply because in their mind the connection has already been established. The advertiser was aware of this psychology of the consumer & hence they consciously downplayed the Sweden connection for the brand. This strategy was employed until the time was perfect to highlight the truth and the origin became the primary message to be communicated. Thus during this period of tension the Key Message delivered was on its Swedish origin. Page 9 of 18 Theme Absolut Object : This category of ads showed the Absolut bottle not made from glass but from something else. Because the size and shape of the object resembles that of the bottle, the object represents an Absolut bottle. This was an easy thing to do considering the customer had consumed several years’ worth of glass bottles as a lengthy appetizer, the Absolut bottle image was firmly established in their minds, before the advertiser took the image away. Absolut Tradition: Discourse: Celebration of Christmas Signifier: • The iconic symbols associated with celebrating Christmas like the gifts, Christmas tree, hearth etc. The hearth is a very significant symbol as in early days fire was a symbol of the home, safety and warmth. The English took on the custom of burning the Yule log on Christmas Eve. It was considered good luck to sit on it before it was burned and it was bad luck if the fire went out quickly. After the holidays had ended (twelve days of Christmas) a piece of the log was saved to rekindle the next year's log. • The silhouette of the Absolut bottle made from the toy train lends itself to the concept of the tradition of Christmas, hinting at the mythical Polar Express. Page 10 of 18