Absolut bolsters outdoor budget

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The marketer that used the pages of the magazine to turn the Absolut vodka bottle into an icon is stepping up its commitment to the big board with an expanded outdoor ad push.

Seagram Spirits & Wine Co. is in the throes of launching six superbillboards this year, with interactive boards on tap for 2001, said Carl Horton, VP-marketing. He said the country's No. 2 spirits marketer will increase its outdoor outlay by about 10%. Based on Competitive Media Reporting figures, that would mean fattening its $1.4 million outdoor budget by about $140,000.That's still only a fraction of the $32 million it spent on Absolut last year.

The push comes at a time when Absolut's marketing plans are uncertain, considering importer Seagram Wines & Spirits is in the midst of being sold by new Seagram Co. owner Vivendi. If Absolut parent V&S Vin & Sprit of Stockholm does not agree with Seagram's choice of a suitor, it could yank distribution rights for Absolut, giving them to another importer.


One of the brand's latest moves is a three-dimensional, 19-by-49-foot billboard in Manhattan's NoHo district. It shows a life-size studio apartment in the shape of the Absolut bottle that is filled with furniture from Ikea North America. It shows a living room, bathroom, et al--complete with bathtub, working TV and computer, magazines on the coffee table and leftover Chinese food cartons. It was erected earlier this month and will be up through the end of the year. The board has a small credit that says the furniture came from Ikea.

"[That's] a pretty good-size apartment," said Richard Lewis, worldwide account director on the brand for TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, which launched the bottle campaign 20 years ago. "Actually it's a great place to live, but the rent is a bit steep--$12,000 a month."

Other current outdoor venues for the brand include a 14-foot Absolut bottle on Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard and another along a highway in suburban Miami, where performance artists are busy layering 1,000 coats of paint onto the bottle and adjacent letters spelling out Absolut. The paint adds about 1,500 pounds to the bottle and more than 80 pounds to each letter, which stand 1.5 feet tall. A placard lets passers-by know which coat number the painters are working on.

In addition to its so-called spectaculars, Seagram has had two other boards--one in Chicago for Absolut Mandrin and another Mandrin board in New York that came down last month--showing six-foot birds and the words "Absolut migration." Another big board is planned for later this year, Mr. Horton said.

"Absolut has always been cutting edge in the outdoor format," said Andrew Korniczky, president of Poster Publicity, New York. The global outdoor giant works with TBWA Worldwide, Paris, for international outdoor advertising for Absolut.


Poster Publicity recently designed a free-standing Absolut display that includes revolving ads inside an Absolut bottle in support of duty-free sales in airports. The "CyberSign" was erected in Arturo Marino Benitez Airport in Santiago and could roll worldwide. Last summer in Chile, TBWA planted a field of flowers in the shape of an Absolut bottle and called the outdoor display "Absolut summer."

"They are always looking to do something that gets noticed," Mr. Korniczky said. "It goes with their print approach."

Mr. Lewis said Absolut is increasing its reach beyond magazines, in part because billboards can tap what many magazines can't.

"We're trying to create some kind of emotional connection to [a] market," he said.

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