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Absolut Takes a Shot at Network Television

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Instead of Katy Perry or Kanye West, Absolut Vodka may get the most attention from its scheduled appearance during the 51st Grammy Awards tonight (Feb. 8). Absolut has taken the bold step of breaking the voluntary ban of spirits advertising on network TV.

In the third hour of the Grammys, affiliates in 14 of the top DMAs were slated to run a 30-second TV spot called “Hugs.” It marked the first time a commercial for a distilled-spirits product would appear on any CBS-owned local broadcast stations.

The move is a controversial one. Advocacy groups claim that children under 21 already see too much alcohol-related advertising and allowing liquor marketers on network TV will only exacerbate this fact.

In 2001, NBC became the first to experiment with carrying a liquor ad on its local flagship station, selling Smirnoff vodka time on Saturday Night Live.

Although that branding spot was meant to be followed by months of pro-social messaging about responsible alcohol consumption, the subsequent backlash from Congress and advocacy groups made it untenable for NBC to continue the arrangement.

Since then, NBC made tentative forays back into the category, airing spots on its New York affiliate from Bacardi and Grey Goose.

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