CITIES, ART, FASHION, DESIGN
CITIES, ART, FASHION, DESIGN
In 1984, the style of the Absolut campaigns passed another benchmark with “Absolut Stardom”. For the first time, it was no longer the bottle itself that was photographed, but its silhouette, outlined by five thousand tiny blue and white lightbulbs. By then, the Absolut image was well enough known that it could be simply suggested. This qualitative leap allowed the use of anything and everything that could be transformed into the shape of the cult-bottle. A ski run in the mountains, the nineteenth round on a golf course, a printed circuit — anything was possible.
A fifteen-hectare field in Kansas, planted with different grains to represent the shape of the bottle, was even put to use. The photo was taken from a plane when the plants were sufficiently ripe, and the resulting image was so graphic that some thought the whole thing had been done in a studio.
For “Absolut Harmony”, 102 New York choristers were lined up on twenty-four levels in front of the Rockefeller centre Christmas tree, forming the shape of the famous bottle. This exploit was realized at sunset.
Then, in 1987, TBWA enriched its campaigns by creating the first series of ads. It all began with the need to increase the brand’s renown in California. Tom McMannus, an art director, created an aerial photo of a swimming pool in the shape of the bottle and titled it “Absolut L.A”. That is how Absolut won over Los Angeles. The ad was such a success that the same idea was applied to other American cities, including New York and Chicago, then to each state, and finally to the big cities in the rest of the world. For each of these impeccably produced ads, a key symbol of the place was transformed into the shape of the Absolut bottle. For Manhattan, it was Central Park, for New Orleans a trumpet, for Paris a Métro entrance, for Rome a scooter, and so on.
Another new direction had been taken in 1985 when the painter Andy Warhol became involved. He had already painted “La Grand Passion” for Grand Marnier liqueur, distributed in the United States by Michel Roux, who had become president of Carillon. Warhol offered to do another painting for Absolut, saying that although he did not drink alcohol, he loved the vodka, which he used as a perfume!
The amazing result was a painting of the Absolut bottle in black against a yellow background. Michel Roux wanted to use it for an ad in avant-garde magazines.
The success of the Warhol ad was such that it allowed him to hire other fashionable artists, including Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf. Then Absolut began using unknown artists, including painters, sculptors, and photographers.
All this began to interest collectors, who first accumulated the Absolut ads, then the derivative objects.
Next came the fashion designers, who dreamed up women’s and men’s clothing that carried the name Absolut or the silhouette of the bottle. The best designers thus contributed a new element to the trendy, chic world that Absolut had created in less than ten years. Absolut also called on the great photographers (Newton, Lang, etc.) to take pictures of the creations of the great couturiers. Other designers began to make armchairs, couches, lamps, and stools in the shape of the Absolut bottle. Even The New Yorker’s cartoonists made their contribution.
Sales reached 4.5 million cases in 1993, and 5.5 million in 1997. In the meantime, the distribution structure had changed in 1994, and Seagram had won the right to represent the chicken that had laid the golden egg on the international market. The first vodka to be imported onto the American market, Absolut was now present in Europe. Distribution had begun in Sweden only in 1981, two years after the American launch.
Proud of its purity, which it claims is more perfect than that of any other vodka, Absolut is still made exclusively in Ahus, a small, peaceful city with a population of 10,000. The vodka is rectified to the point where a small amount of less pure vodka must be added to give it a bit of flavour. But what really counts is the concept.
In addition to the vodka with a fifty percent alcohol content, flavoured versions have been added to widen the market. The launch of Peppar, Lemon, and Kurrant led to a new frenzy of creative advertising campaigns dreamed up by the invincible TBWA agency.
Absolut Web sites have also flourished, many of them created by the vodka’s fans, who keep each other informed about new Absolut campaigns and anything having to do with the vodka. A volume called The Absolut Book traces the history of the vodka.
One last example of the heights of luxury and modernity reached by Absolut: the operation conducted with the fashion designer Gianni Versace at the beginning of 1997. His exclusive designs, worn by top models, were photographed by Herb Ritts in an unusual setting: the Ice Hotel in Jukkäsjarvi, two hundred kilometres from the Arctic Circle in Sweden. This hotel is rebuilt every year with blocks of ice and snow. The campaign consists of eight astonishing photos, including one with Naomi Campbell embedded in a 2.4-metre high bottle sculpted from a three-ton block of ice. It was a successful return to the source.