M&C Saatchi Makes Apologies for Ketel One

NEW YORK Rare is the ad that apologizes for itself, but that’s just what Ketel One’s new print ad, which broke in August magazines, does.

In black type against a white background, ad copy reads: “Dear Ketel One Drinker: This is an advertisement for the aforementioned product. Sorry.” There is no logo, bottle shot or any other copy or images.

“It just apologizes for advertising, it’s quite simple,” said Alan Jarvie, creative director at M&C Saatchi in Santa Monica, Calif., which created the campaign, and sole creative on the account. “It’s saying sorry we’ve had to do these things, but that’s the world we live in.”

The point of the campaign—which also includes a previous ad that broke in May and read: “Dear Ketel One Drinker: Thank you.”—is to create a buzz for Ketel One without alienating its existing customers with splashy ads that look just like any other vodka advertising. Therefore, Jarvie said, he purposely avoided bottle shots, “nice sepia pictures” shown with a description of how the vodka is made and “just the whole style thing.”

“The starting point is really to get away from all that,” Jarvie said. “To try to do something very different.”

According to Jarvie, the ads, which don’t identify Ketel One as a vodka, should not mystify consumers.

“We don’t see them as terribly ambiguous,” he said. “We think they’re fairly straightforward.”

Two to three additional print ads, each incorporating a different statement, are expected to roll out before year’s end.

The campaign is the first advertising for the Dutch vodka since it began being sold in the U.S. 11 years ago.

“We felt it was time to speak to our customers,” said Bill Eldien, president of Nolet Spirits USA, about the effort. “There’s no doubt the environment is highly competitive. There are a lot of new brands coming in. We thought it was time to spread the word about Ketel One.”

London-based M&C Saatchi, whose U.S. headquarters are in New York, earlier this year opened its Santa Monica office with six staffers to replace its smaller service outpost in Manhattan Beach, Calif. The shop won the Ketel One business last year following a review against eight undisclosed contenders. The office’s client roster includes Crystal Cruises, Quantas Airways and the New Zealand Tourist Board.