RUSSIAN HERITAGE TO INSPIRE STOLI ADS

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Expect the new ads for Stolichnaya vodka to take on much more of a distinctive Russian flavor.

Carillon Importers, the brand's U.S. marketer, and new agency Margeotes Fertitta Donaher & Weiss plan ads for the main Stoli brand with the look of classic 1930s and '40s era Russian posters, though with modern images and no hammers and sickles.

"We will take some of the authenticity of Stoli and the Russian background in a contemporary version," said Carillon President Michel Roux. "There were some great posters that were done that we will translate in time. We want to give the same feeling of graphics in a modern time."

Mr. Roux and the New York agency will turn to artists, much as Mr. Roux did for the award winning Absolut creative. However, this time some of the artists will be Russian, further reflecting Stoli's heritage.

If that strategy sounds similar to that used by rival Absolut vodka and agency TBWA, it's no surprise. Carillon marketed Absolut in the U.S. until Feb. 1. But the brand's maker, V&S Sprits, decided to switch distribution to Seagram Co. from Carillon's parent, Grand Metropolitan's International Distillers & Vintners. Subsequently, IDV signed a deal with PepsiCo to take over North American marketing of Stoli from Monsieur Henri.

While Stoli was marketed by Monsieur Henri, the business was handled by Calet, Hirsch & Ferrell (now Ferrell Calvillo Communications). In naming Margeotes to handle the $10 million account last week, Mr. Roux said there will be three separate campaigns for Stoli, Stoli Cristall vodka and lower-price Priviet vodka, which doesn't carry the Stoli name.

In something of a surprise, he said Stoli and Cristall will get equal spending. Mr. Roux also said Margeotes may be in line for more business if TBWA (which kept Absolut) is forced by conflicts to resign Carillon's Grand Marnier liqueur and Bombay Sapphire gin.

The first new advertising for the main Stoli brand will start sometime in the next three weeks.

Those initial ads will help promote fund-raising events for local organizations while at the same time pushing the vodka. That effort will be followed this summer with three different magazine campaigns.

Stoli Cristall's separate effort will seek to place the vodka above others.

"We want to put it on a pedestal," Mr. Roux said. "To say, `It's the best thing I can have in my life' ... We think it has great potential for a superpremium, and that is where the growth will come."

Priviet will get a lifestyle campaign and focus on younger demographics. Mr. Roux said a variety of lifestyles are likely to be featured, including possibly some gay couples.

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