Absolut Kicks Off Kanye West Follow-Up

Insomniacs who were up late watching infomercials this month were treated to a laugh compliment of Absolut vodka. As part of its “Visionaries” campaign, which launched in February, hip-hop superstar Kanye West spoofed direct response TV ads. The spot promoted “fast-acting Kanye tablets” that can turn anyone into Kanye West complete with a toll-free number: 877-Bekanye.

The infomercial, which also was supported by wild postings in New York and Chicago, received 127,000 views on YouTube, as well as 33,357 page views at Bekanyenow.com. More than 50,000 people called the 877-number.

This week, Absolut debuted phase two. A more traditional spot will run during direct response TV programming, online and in theaters (in August). It features a man at a nightclub who appears to be West until his Kanye tablet wears off. TBWA\Chiat\Day, Great Works and OMD, all New York, handled.

“We offer our artists a lot of creative leeway,” said Ian Crystal, brand director at Absolut, New York. “Kanye’s a natural actor. He’s really fun. He’s got a good sense of humor.”

To date, Absolut has worked with close to 20 artists including Perez Hilton and Zach Galifianakis, who showed off their version of what its like to be “In an Absolut World” at  Absolut.com. Another 20 are on the way including comedian Eddie Izzard. “We want people to keep coming to our site to see what new content is there,” said Crystal.

The Kanye ad and the others have finally helped shift consumers away from the classic Absolut bottle campaign mentality, said Crystal. “It’s been a challenge,” he said. “The new campaign has been in the market for a little over a year and people were still thinking of the old one. As of the past few months though, they started to adapt. This new campaign, which is a more ideal look at the world, has a lot of legs to it.”

Despite being in the final stages of being acquired by Pernod Ricard for a reported $8.3 billion, Absolut is increasing its media budget this year, per Crystal. It spent $23 million on measured media last year (not including online), per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. “We haven’t put the brakes on. So far we’ve seen nothing but positive results from this campaign.”

The effort is a nod to all of the great artists who worked on the “bottle” campaign, like Andy Warhol and Javier Mariscal. “Kanye had respect for the brand since it has been collaborating with artists for more than 30 years,” said Crystal. “He is selective. He sees himself as a creative genius and he’s not afraid to tell everyone he is.”

Absolut is the fourth best-selling spirit in America at 5 million cases, per Impact, New York.