Thirty Years of Absolut

“Vodka from Russia”… The time has passed, when this simple slogan guaranteed a recognition around the world. Today not vodka itself is advertised, but a lifestyle associated with it.

The beginning of the end of “Russian vodka” was put by Swedish “Absolut”, that burst into US market and won it in 1980s. In 1981 it’s been sold 20,000 of cases of “Absolut”, in 1996 – more than 3 million of cases, nowadays – 4,7 million. All together the Swedes have spent $0.5 billion on the trade mark promotion in USA, investing annually $25-30 million in support of its image. Today it solidly takes the third place in dimension of sale in America. Now it celebrates “Absolut’s” 30-th birthday.

In 1979 the first unknown cases of Swedish vodka arrived in the States. The “hero” of the advertisement campaign was an ordinary Swedish pharmacy bottle: massive, with rounded sides, shortened neck and bright letters on a thick glass. Back in 18th century, in just like that transparent glass bottles citizens of a small Swedish town Ahus were given cod liver oil and castor oil by a chemist. Now Ahus is well-known world-wide, because “Absolut” is produced only here.

The advertisement campaigne of “Absolut” in 1981 started with a slogan “Absolut – Perfection” and a famous image of a bottle, surrounded by light smoke halo.

In 1985 a great troublemaker Andy Warhol, known as a godfather of world pop-art, has colored the bottle of “Absolute” vodka and called it “Absolut Warhol”. That’s how an unprecedented ad campaign started: museums, art galleries and runways got stocked with empty vodka vessels, and “Absolut” bottle became one of the most recognizable symbols of the 20th century.

The idea was simple: instead of hiring a staff of “creative heads” and waiting for some “genius” developments, the company has involved artists, designers, architects, sculptors and photographers to create a unique advertising image. The freedom of creative ideas wasn’t limited in any way. However there was one term of condition – the bottle of vodka should have been the center of the intrigue.

That approach has turned  “Absolute” from a good and high-quality vodka into a drink of world’s elite – an original spiritual elixir.

After Andy Warhol, more that 450 artists took part in the project by creating sculptural, graphic, pictorial works, photos and computer design and graphics. That’s how appeared “Absolut” tables, chairs, lamps and even carpets.

However the real gem of the collection is a set of portrait photos by Annie Leibovitz. Here “Absolut” was really lucky. For the whole history of the advertisements there was no other product, which could be proud to be presented by such famous people of the world art elite as Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag, Philippe Starck, Philip Glass, Jerry Lewis, Queen Latifah and Helmut Newton.

Artists were gathered, as it’s supposed to be, by a bottle of vodka…

After the day the first bottle of  Swedish vodka “Absolut” had been opened, the artistic world got one more “seat” of absolute creativity and inspiration. Nowadays advertisement of “Absolut” is studied not only in courses of  marketing and economy, but in the best art colleges and universities in the whole world. Perhaps, this is the only case in the history of advertisement, when a project of one liquor company transformed into a whole art trend – “Absolut art”.

There’ve been a great number of different project in this genre. One of them was a poster of “Absolut New York”, with a photo of the Big Apple, taken from a satellite. The Central Park was portrayed as a gigantic bottle of vodka.

Miha Danich

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