No. 2 Vodka Maker Turns To Web Ads

Absolut, the vodka whose bottle-icon campaign was one of the most high-profile campaigns ever, is about to radically alter its marketing strategy away from print to the Internet.

The move is a significant shift for a marketer whose print advertising crossed the barrier from mere liquor promotion into the lexicon of pop culture. The new direction was forced by consumers’ changing tastes in media as well as fierce competition in the vodka category, the company said.

“Online plays a more important role than print. Print is not the key media anymore,” said Patric Blixt, communications manager for new media at Absolut in Stockholm, Sweden. “Our consumer is more focused on the Internet and mobile communication so we’re shifting also. We’re evolving the iconic advertising, making it more inclusive and modern with the same wit and creativity we used in our offline advertising.”

While Absolut is not abandoning print, outdoor and TV ads, those media will take a back seat to the Web. “Even if the print media budgets remain larger, print is now seen as the first window into the Absolut world, driving interested users to the whole brand experience online,” said Blixt.

The world’s No. 2 vodka (behind Smirnoff) will raise its online spend to about 20 percent of its $40 million annual media budget, or about $8 million in the U.S. Absolut’s first bottle-icon print ad, via Chiat Day, debuted in 1979; TBWA\Chiat\Day handles the brand now.

Absolut.com will relaunch globally on Jan. 16. The new domain will build an online “community,” offer more interactive content and make it easier to search for recipes. Great Works, Stockholm, is handling the site redesign.

The architect of the brand’s growth in its glory years, Michel Roux, said change is inevitable. “You can’t be staying in the same seat all the time,” said Roux. “You can only do so much of the same advertising. Consumers say that [ad’s] sort of cute, but enough is enough.”