Absolut Dilemma Tremens

October 23, 2012

Is alcohol a drug? How come alcohol has gained social acceptance? How come you aren’t sent to coventry for drinking, or pariah areas or ‘drinking zones’ like smoker’s ignominy these days. Is alcohol consumption more dangerous than cigarette smoking? Why is it that alcohol advertising has been banned, why is it that cigarette smoking has a statutory warning, why is it that alcohol with all its ‘acceptance’ is banned in both print and electronic media. Should you drink and drive? Should you drink at all? Is there a gene that makes one prone to alcoholism? Is prohibition good?

If you have absolute answers to these questions, chances are that you will have absolute opinions about the morality and ethics of advertising alcohol.

Chances are that if your read the stats Ahmedabad in Gandhi’s own land by the Sabarmati is the most drunken city in India.  Chances are that if you pass a shop in Maharashtra with a dirty curtain in its doorway, you will be passing a hooch adda. Chances are that if you are in Bangalore you will be liquored up at franchised pubs that are bought by the liquor barons whose sole aim in life is to find ingenious ways to get you young and hooked like the cocaine and crack creatures who hang around dubious corners. But the barons are smart and suave dudes who like the accepted way of greeting guests with what-will-you-have-to-drink as they walk in, drive agreeably in their Jaguars and their classic cars. They are bootleggers with a difference. Raju bun gaya gentleman.

Chances are that if you feel impassioned about these things and are a photographer offered to enjoy the king of good times in Mauritius and do a campaign with tanned women in micro bikinis you might start to questions your moral strength. But then chances are that you have not chanced upon the Absolut Book.

The Absolut Vodka Advertising Story is one of those phenomenons, from small beginnings, almost mom and pop to a brand with global equity. Every Absolut ad pure creativity, a thought that lends itself to being ripped out of the magazine and hung on your wall. In fact certain booksellers have been known to razor out the photos and sell them for a few extra sheckles. Absolut is pure fashion and we aren’t even talking women and clothes yet. We are talking about milk bottle plain jane with short neck and round shoulders becoming the see through, saucy lass.

In a fickle world where clients change agencies as often as they change their underwear (well) or cell phones, Absolut has remained corked in with their agency TBWA Chiat/Day. Consistently over 15 years they have let the genies out that have now created an absolut watermark on our collective consciousness. The ads are creative, artistic, witty and often times self deprecating.

Though the advertising team knew that Absolut was the best vodka on the market they never made that claim as they found it boring and unimaginative and knew that consumers were tired of being fed hype. They rather let the consumer discover the truth themselves. It is hoped that the advertising fraternity here is taking notes. So began the famous two word copy campaign, the first ad to ever run more than 15 years ago was Absolut Heaven where the bottle sprouts wings. The bottle is always back lit and as Steve Bronstein who has remained the principal photographer over all these years, discovered early on the bottle acts like a large magnifying glass that reversed and magnified everything it came in contact with.

Absolut Magnetism has the bottle literally pulling the text off the adjoining page. The ad creators even wangled an ‘in joke’ concerning ‘Maggie’, in the body copy. Absolut Landmark is a logistical nightmare where the bottle is agrosculpted in a field and aerially photographed. The Absolut Cities was one of the most popular campaigns. Absolut LA has a swimming pool created in the famous shape. Absolut Manahatten is a visual treat. An infra red NASA poster of N.Y was taken, before the days of Photoshop and Central Park was re-landscaped, the mayor not withstanding. Lexington Ave and the East Side were trimmed off and unceremoniously dumped on the studio floor.  Talk about continental drift. Absolut Brooklyn re-engineers the arches.

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Absolut Art is eminently collectable. Famous artists created  their take on the bottle. Absolut Edelmann is wonderfully deceptive it is actually a painting but the 3D photo-realism has most people fooled.

And then on to women and clothes in Absolut Fashion where like the artists total freedom was given to the designers to interpret Absolut in their own way. Absolut Piccone is entirely bewitching. The book goes on and on and on with creativity leaping out of every image. It would be impossible to review every great shot, the book includes shots that did not cut it, Absolut Rejects.

The trouble is that the ads are so clever and so insidious that even if you are one of those who is anti alcohol advertising, you would be hard pressed to refuse doing a campaign should the offer come your way.

Absolut Proof

Absolutely Fickle.