Stoli “Hugh Hefner”

As the old saying goes, we “drink to make other people more interesting.” Surely, then, we’d be inclined to confer such an improvement on ourselves. This suggests we’d give an affirmative answer to the question posed by a new campaign (via Ogilvy & Mather, New York) for Stolichnaya vodka, “Would you have a drink with you?” In any case, this spot finds Playboy founder Hugh Hefner willing to have a drink with himself, and Hefner (thanks to some split-screen sleight of hand) appears to enjoy Hefner’s company. He’s presented here as an “original,” to underscore the tagline, “The most original people deserve the most original vodka.” Hefner is an interesting (and somewhat risky) choice for this role. Though it has yet to join other iconic American brands in receiving (or requesting) a bailout from the federal government, the Playboy empire has fallen on hard times in recent years. And now in his 80s, Hefner has reached an age at which even the suavest man is apt to look ridiculous in the role of roué. In a culture that regards growing old as an unforgivable blunder, many brands would be reluctant to align themselves with someone whose cultural-icon heyday is well behind him. But that’s precisely what gives Stoli’s use of Hefner an aura of boldness. The obvious (and unoriginal) thing for a brand to do is to latch onto a celeb of the moment. Stoli has done nothing of the sort, and this helps establish the brand’s own credentials as an original. Anyhow, for many viewers, the octogenarian Hefner — brought down a peg or two by the weight of years — is a more sympathetic character than the man who in earlier decades could freely flaunt his financial-plus-sexual success. –Mark Dolliver