Absolut Vodka - Absolut [Something] (1979)

Marrying the moderate simplicity of its bottle with a myriad of pop culture entities, TBWA's Absolut Vodka ads became what's known as "the best print campaign in the history of advertising."  Born in Sweden, Absolut was becoming a trending presence in 1980's New York, it's boldly simplistic slogan of "Absolut [Something]" permeating  every corner of culture. However, its transformation into a cultural icon came when Andy Warhol proposed to ad exec Michel Roux a unique collaboration. Over dinner one night in 1986, Warhol told Roux that he was enchanted by the artfulness of the bottle, and while he didn't drink alcohol, he occasionally used the vodka as perfume. The conversation resulted in Warhol painting his interpretation of the bottle, and since then, Absolut has collaborated with numerous artists throughout the years, its minimalistic bottle acting as a blank canvas for brilliant creatives from all around the world.

Why We Love Absolut [Something]

A. It stayed flexible

The fact that Absolut [Something] is a two word slogan with a variable noun is what gives its ability to chameleonize into essentially any emotion, concept, or vision. This core idea is what allowed it to partner with so many different genres of creativity over the last 30 years.

B. It was "always on"

The Absolut bottles over the years have morphed into reflections of modern art, culture, politics, and beyond. Whatever the trending situation, the ads became a part of the conversation.

C. It had absolute reach

The bottle cast a wide net across cultures, there was essentially no market it couldn’t touch. ABSOLUT is the third largest brand of alcoholic spirits in the world after Bacardi and Smirnoff, and is sold in 126 countries. Want to court your NYC hipsters? ABSOLUT BROOKLYN. Want every Christmas party to serve Absolut cocktails? “Absolut 24th.” Absolut even got into social activism, as shown in their “Absolut Rainbow” ad in 2009, in celebration of 40 years of gay pride. Absolut bottles echoed more aspects of human culture than other ad campaign in history.

What We Can Learn From Absolut [Something]

1. Images are powerful

The Absolut images serve an example of ads that appeal to our brain’s desire to acquire information. The illustrations are often outlines of ABSOLUT’s distinctive bottle shape, and usually require the viewer to study the ad for a second to see a pattern emerge. The ads often are visual puns of some sort, as well. The campaign was well-targeted to the way the human brain processes information. Whether the viewer was a vodka drinker or not, the nature of the images invited curiosity – difficult to glance past without taking a second look.

2. Adaptation is key to relevancy

The Absolut vodka campaign teaches us that a brand needs to adapt to live. Absolut was so successful because it was able to stay relevant for many years, though shifting trends and times. Staying aware of what the people are saying — and saying it back to them — is key to producing work that is part of the conversation.

3. Evolution is essential

Today, Absolut has even taken on the realm of experiential marketing in order to reach millennials. Instead of commissioning something static, like a print ad or YouTube video, the vodka maker asks artists to create experiences – staying with their tradition of commissioning creative minds. Leveraging their already strong connection to nightlife, ABSOLUT selects artists to curate club-like events – that served Absolut Vodka drinks of course – and having a lasting impression on their audiences.

Key Moments

Back to the Start

A limited edition Andy Warhol bottle is issued to commemorate the artist's history with the brand

Keeping the momentum going

Absolut Vodka is selling 4.5 million cases in the U.S., thanks to its iconic ads

Absolut Warhol

Andy Warhol's first ad for the campaign appears in the U.S. magazines

Slow Sales

Absolut vodka is selling 10K cases a year in the U.S.

Nice to Meet You

Crillon Importers introduces Absolut Vodka to the U.S. market

A Vodka Is Born

The brand is launched by Lars Olsson Smith in Sweden