2008 Creative Marketers: Absolut

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Machines take over, in a good way
Machines take over, in a good way
Few marketers can legitimately claim to have a heritage of "branded content"—a buzz phrase that has been around for roughly 10 years—but Absolut is one of them. Its famed "bottle" campaign from TBWA ran for close to three decades, encompassing the work of hundreds of artists and collaborators. But all good things must come to an end.

Absolut now faces dozens of challengers in the premium (and "super-premium") vodka category and print is losing traction. "We built this brand through print," observes Jesper Andréasson, Absolut's global manager of communication development. "But with the media landscape changing, we embrace the shift—and our new campaign does just that."

Absolut's new positioning, "In An Absolut World"—again created by TBWA—has opened up new avenues for collaboration, particularly online. The company's digital agency—Stockholm-based Great Works—won a Gold Cyber Lion earlier this year for its Absolut Machines project, which allowed users to interact with two music-making machines in an attempt to answer the question, "In an Absolut World, Would Machines be Creative?" Also this year, the agency launched a new "In an Absolut World" campaign site, which is home to short films by Kanye West, Perez Hilton, and offbeat comedian Zach Galifianakis—among others—and a place for users to post visions of their own. In West's vision of an "Absolut world," you can take two tablets that will turn you into, well, him. In Hilton's, the gossip blogger is celebrated like Elvis (or at least Heath), and in Galifianakis' vision it's tough to tell exactly what is going on, although Esquire magazine spent 800 words explaining why it is funny. Of course, this is the sort of collaboration Absolut has been known for since Warhol was still alive.

Back in Stockholm, Andréasson also sees the continuity. "I would say that it's more of an evolution. We still have our creative heritage, which is now even broader because we're not only working with the creative community and inviting artists to co-create with us, but we're also inviting the consumers to give their vision of the world." Ted Persson, partner and CCO of Great Works, notes that the company has formed unusually long relationships with its agencies, working with TBWA since 1980 and with the agencies that evenutally became Great Works for almost 10 years. "I think this trust of their long-term agencies, together with smart people with a genuine interest in new things, form the ground pillars for Absolut's marketing success."

And that includes new ideas about media, both online and off. Andréasson notes that Absolut has long been know for its "outdoor spectaculars"—unconventional billboard installations like "Absolut Alternative," a solar-powered affair that loomed over Sunset Boulevard during California's 2001 energy crisis.. "I think we've always challenged ourselves in how we are delivering the idea in media," he says.

Read about Microsoft Xbox, another of our 2008 Creative Marketers.
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