Absolut's New Digital Play Plugs Partying With Strangers

The 'Hoppr' Allows Drinkers to Invite Anyone Nearby to Private Parties

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Credit: Absolut
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Here is another sign that the house party is making a comeback, at least in the eyes of booze marketers: Absolut Vodka on Thursday is unveiling a new digital program allowing drinkers to invite strangers to private parties.

The technology lives on a mobile-friendly site hosted by the brand that initially targets the New York City region. People must log in using Facebook credentials and choose if they are looking for a party or want to host a shindig. GPS functionality allows users to view nearby parties. Hosts and potential guests can only access address details if both parties mutually agree to share information. Users can also use the program to locate stores that sell Absolut. The agency on the program is 360i.

The initiative is called "Hoppr," which is a reference to party hopping. "It was once upon a time where party crashing, or party hopping, was maybe considered bad behavior. And we are really encouraging it by mutually inviting consumers … the opportunity to jump in and hop from party to party," said Nick Guastaferro, director of marketing of Absolut in the U.S. Absolut is owned by Pernod Ricard.

"We are living in these online worlds," he said. But "people are looking for opportunities to come together in more intimate settings, in new and unexpected ways," he added. "There is really a sentiment of returning to the house parties."

Pernod competitor Bacardi has also seized on the house party theme with a recently launched campaign for its namesake rum that included a "House Party Tour" that involved bringing a mobile house to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Miami.

Absolut's Hoppr program follows an event the brand held in Los Angeles in October called Absolut Electrik House that plugged new limited-edition "Electrik" bottles that come in metallic-looking shades of blue and silver. The event was described by the brand as a "next-level house party" that included drone bartenders and a robot band.

The aim of the programs is "reclaiming our position as a nightlife leader," Mr. Guastaferro said. The effort started globally last year with the "Nights by Absolut" initiative that includes events meant to "infuse nightlife with creativity, and offer audiences uniquely one-of-a-kind artistic experiences," according to the brand.

Footage from the events is used in TV ads. Absolut's lead creative agency is Sid Lee.

"The beauty of the formula of that campaign is that it is always changing," Mr. Guastaferro said. "We are always updating footage with events to make it current and to show a different side of an Absolut night."

Absolut sales have recently begun to stabilize after slumping.

Volume for the three months ending in September was up 0.3%, compared with a 3.3% decline in the three months ending in August, according to a report last month by Sanford C. Bernstein, which called it a "strong improvement sequentially." According to IRI, which does not include bar sales, Absolut dollar sales fell by 0.9% in the 52 weeks ending Oct. 4 to $130.8 million. That gave Absolut 7.22% share of the vodka category, only trailing Diageo-owned Smirnoff, which has a 17.68% share and whose sales increased 1.2% during the period.