Vodka marketing in recent months has gotten quite serious, as brands go to great lengths to describe their complex origins and formulas. Belvedere Vodka, for instance, touts its credentials as distilled "according to a 600-year-old Polish tradition," while Grey Goose is explaining how its creator defied naysayers by crafting the vodka from French wheat.
In the face of this grandiosity, Smirnoff is breaking a new global campaign today that seeks to restore some levity to the category. With the tagline "Exclusively for Everybody," ads use humor to mock the social exclusivity and pretentiousness that Smirnoff executives say has overtaken the category.
Smirnoff wants to take a "fresh point of view" that highlights the brand's positioning as "great quality vodka for the masses," said Dan Kleinman, the U.S. brand director for Smirnoff, which is owned by Diageo. In a campaign overview document, Smirnoff states that vodka has "lost sight of its populist roots and become exclusive and elite" with the "overpriced offering of pretentious VIP areas and model-only parties."
The campaign marks the debut effort by 72andSunny, which won the account last year and services it from offices in New York and Amsterdam. Other agencies working on the campaign include 360i for digital, Carat for media planning and buying and Taylor for PR.
TV ads star Alison Brie, best known for her role on NBC's "Community," and Adam Scott, of NBC's "Parks and Recreation." The campaign, which includes a digital film (above) and several 30-second spots, follows the two actors as they plan a party.
In one spot set in a store, Ms. Brie picks out a bottle of vodka that is "filtered through uncut volcano diamonds." Mr. Scott replies: "That is just a fancy way of saying strained through rocks." He later picks out a bottle of Smirnoff, which he describes simply as "just really good vodka."
Another ad pokes fun of the growing trend of exclusive bar parties and events, describing Smirnoff as "for VIP lists, guest lists and no lists."
The campaign marks the first big Smirnoff trademark TV campaign since 2010's "I Choose" effort by JWT. While Smirnoff has run TV ads in recent years to promote specific products and new flavors, most of the brand equity work had been confined to events, such as the social-media fueled "Nightlife Exchange Project."
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Smirnoff is going back to TV for the new campaign "because when you have a point of view like this and you really want to get some reappraisal and conversation at scale, you can't ignore the reach power of TV to do that," Mr. Kleinman said. The brand declined to reveal specific media spending figures for the campaign.
As part of the effort, Smirnoff is partnering with Spotify for a digital contest called "Ultimate House Party," which asks consumers to submit songs for a house party playlist. Prizes include "epic house parties" thrown in the winner's home town
Smirnoff is the No. 1 vodka brand in the U.S. by far, controlling 18.83% dollar share compared with 7.93% for No. 2 Absolut, according to IRI data for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 26. But Smirnoff grew dollar sales by only 2.3% to in the period to $309 million, compared with 5.7% growth for the entire category, according to IRI, which excludes bars and restaraunts.
Much of the growth in vodka is coming from a smattering of smaller brands, such as Tito's Handmade Vodka, which touts itself as "microdistilled in an old-fashioned pot still."Another brand gaining ground is New Amsterdam, which is owned by E. & J. Gallo and launched in 2011, debuting its first national TV campaign last year.
In vodka, "there's no one-on-one battle," Mr. Kleinman said, but a lot of brands are "nipping at the leader." Some consumers might be tempted by new brands, he said. But Smirnoff wants the inclusive tone of the new campaign to show consumers that "this is a confident brand that has something really interesting to say, really humorous to say, that really connects with me."