Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, April 04, 2008

Absolut Awful Messaging

Absolut has posted on its Web site a response -- not an apology -- regarding its reconquesta ad from Paula Ericsson, VP, corp. communications:
The In An Absolut World advertising campaign invites consumers to visualize a world that appeals to them -- one they feel may be more idealized or one that may be a bit "fantastic." As such, the campaign will elicit varying opinions and points of view. We have a variety of executions running in countries worldwide, and each is germane to that country and that population.
Note the phrase "We have a variety of executions running...." What's said and what's missing tells us that Absolut and its agencies created this ad, that it was not solicited through some sort of contest. It therefore is the product of the company and must reflect their point of view at some level.
This particular ad, which ran in Mexico, was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility.
Again, "was created," not ""was submitted."
In no way was this meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues.
Honey, saying it isn't so doesn't make it not so. Messages need to ring true or they clang like a gong. The ad does offend and disparage (more on that later), it obviously advocates a change in the borders because it shows a reconoquista border as an "absolute," which is inherently anti-American. And the fact that reconquista and the radical anti-immigration law movements are one and the same makes it impossible to run the ad without reflecting immigration issues.

The statement should have said, "We regret that to many, this ad offended, and was disparaging towards America ..." and so on through the entire list.
Instead, it hearkens to a time which the population of Mexico may feel was more ideal.
Hmm. Isn't that statement itself offensive and disparaging? Doesn't it seem to advocate an altering of borders (on behalf of the entire population of Mexico, not a part of it, which probably offends a fair amount of Mexicans)? Don't you feel it lends support to an anti-American sentiment, and reflects immigration issues? I thought so. Me too.
As a global company, we recognize that people in different parts of the world may lend different perspectives or interpret our ads in a different way than was intended in that market. Obviously, this ad was run in Mexico, and not the US -- that ad might have been very different.
In a global world, companies should realize that what they do in one market will be seen in other markets, and implying that it's OK with them if an American Absolut ad is flagrantly anti-Mexican -- when we know they would never run such an ad -- just insults our intelligence.

And that's not what you want to do with your messaging. Ericsson should have apologized, but the world "apologize" or "sorry" does not appear anywhere in the statement. It is, in short, one of the worst responses to a crisis communications challenge I have ever seen. And the comments it generated on the Absolut site show many agree with me:

Ex-Absolut Drinker, who apparently is in the entertainment biz, said:
I guess you could say your Absolutly f***ed. I will be sure and have a rider with the shows I book that no Absolut will be served during any of my artists shows.
Old-Fashioned American Patriot, who owns some bars, commented:
This will not be sold in my bars, and I will petition the bar-owners in my area to likewise boycott.

If only we had the ability to prevent the import of the product, it'd wind up in the harbors much like a certain tea did a couple-hundred years back...
And Perry the Cynic wrote:
You have every right to advertise anywhere in any way you like. I have every right to adjust my purchasing habits accordingly. I intend to never buy your brand again, OR that of your parent company (Pernod Ricard), and I will endeavor to educate my friends and acquaintances about your appalling attitude towards out country, and particular towards the great state of California.
That's just part of page 1. There are 49 pages of comments already posted.

You can join the fun via the first link above (you have to type in an age over 21 to enter), or you can email Paula direct at

And if you must drink vodka, stay away from Absolut, of course, and Stoli, too, since it is also a Pernod Ricard brand.

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