The Absolut Vodka campaign that raised a buzz in the US with an ‘ideal’ map of Mexico


Absolut Vodka’s advertising campaigns are some of the most famous, cataloged as a veritable gallery of advertising art that has made the brand an icon in the history of the 20th century and even contemporary art.

The TBWA advertising agency had a lot to do with getting various ads that did not go unnoticed: for years it kept the campaign active in which the bottles of this Swedish vodka were integrated in different corners of the world. Thanks to this, the company consolidated itself as a benchmark brand, a cosmopolitan and aspirational product that exponentially increased its market share.

But in 2008, as part of its “In an Absolute World” campaign, advertising created for Mexico sparked outrage with threats of boycotts from US consumers.

In mid-2007, TBWA changed the traditional “Absolut Perfection” campaign to “In an Absolute World”, which showed ideal worlds not without a certain critical component.

Consumers were invited to submit proposals that were tailored to different national markets, such as the one in Times Square where ads were replaced with artwork, pregnant men or politicians on the campaign trail growing noses at a rally, factory that emits harmless bubbles instead of smoke, bar scenes where people wear buttons that show their sanity.

“The new campaign visually answers the question ‘what if everything in the world was a little more Absolute?’ It’s not necessarily about perfection, but about making the world better by seeing it with fresh eyes. As the story unfolds, you can expect commentary on topics and big and small ideas, serious and humorous, timeless and of the moment,” said Rob Smiley, creative director of TBWA/Chiat/Day/New York at the time.

And in this ideal world fantasy, Absolut released an ad in which Mexico extended its borders to the limits in effect in 1848, when Texas, California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming were part of Mexican territory. (Texas seceded from Mexico several years earlier to form a breakaway republic and was voluntarily annexed by the United States in 1846.)

That colorful and idealized map was seen on billboards, truck stops, magazines only in the Latin American country.

While it could have been taken as a joke suggesting that in a better world the Mexicans would still control most of what is now the Pacific Coast and the southwestern United States, some suggested it was meant to show the dissatisfaction that Mexicans feel towards the neighboring country, while for other American conservatives it seemed like a subversive attack that incited the population to rebel.

Absolut’s maker, Vin & Spirit, said the ad was created “with a Mexican sensibility” and was not intended for the US market. “It was in no way intended to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate any alteration of the borders, nor endorse any anti-American sentiment, nor reflect immigration issues,” a spokeswoman wrote on Absolut’s website.

The Los Angeles Times conducted a poll about the ad, which received more than 67,000 responses; 62% of them agreed with the phrase “The ad is an insult to the Americans and I am going to boycott the product.” In fact, a Richmond, California bar owner wrote on Absolut’s website that he would never serve his product again, discounting his competition, and telling everyone in his family about the “evil” Swedish.

The grievance lasted a few days as all advertising was withdrawn. And the subject was never discussed again.

Source: Yahoo