Absolut was the first new business pitch I worked on after being brought to the U.S. by TBWA. My partner and I were particularly struck by how dismal the liquor advertising was here at that time. Not just dull and bland, but so serious! And serious just doesn't mix well with liquor of any description.
We thought the bottle was kinda cool, if perhaps a tad pretentious for a vodka from…Sweden? But it was very clear that it held an enormous amount of pride. And that if we wanted to win the biz, it might be a good plan to not relegate it to the lower right-hand corner of the page - as we had already done in an earlier attempt that poked fun at it being from…Sweden?
Much lore has been written and told about the afternoon we closed our door and covered the wall with the first 18 ads of the longest running advertising campaign ever. Most of it from sources who were either on the other side of our door, or not yet inside the agency’s door.
Everyone wants to be in a story that’s being re-written into history. I find it gratifying that the campaign gave many talented people every right to be.
There is one aspect of the story, though, that became apparent only in the context of more recent years:
ABSOLUT WAS THE FIRST VIRAL CAMPAIGN.
And it became so in analogue. The ads were pinned on walls in offices, cubicles, bedrooms and dorms. They were collected, traded, shared, even coveted.
All very viral behavior - and all before the internet was even the faintest glimmer in Al Gore’s eye.
You can still go on eBay and buy pretty much any Absolut ad that was ever produced. I added screen shots of the ads for the ads I don’t have copies of anymore!
One final bragging right; last year “Fast Company” magazine included the Absolut campaign, or rather the conversation that led us to it, as one of the “Ten Conversations That Changed Our World”.
Geez...as the piece quoted me as saying, " ...we were just trying to wake-up a category that was still sleeping-off a hang-over from the three-martini-lunch".