Geoff Hayes, father of the iconic bottle campaign for Absolut, is leaving TBWA Chiat/Day after an 18-year run that produced hundreds of ads and turned an unknown Swedish vodka into the No. 1-selling import.
Hayes, worldwide creative director on the account, is returning to his native South Africa to help his sister--whom he supports--find a new home and get her finances in order. He expects to return to New York around September, when he hopes to land a new job.
"I think it's time for me to make a break and get out there and try something different," said Hayes, 48.
The New York shop's executive creative director, Eric McClellan, will assume Hayes' duties until a replacement is found. Hayes had two stints as creative chief on the $28 million account; the most recent began in 1994. He also worked with clients such as Evian and Unicef.
The award-winning Absolut campaign earned a place in the American Marketing Association Hall of Fame in 1992.
Hayes sketched a prototype for the first ad--the bottle with a halo--while watching the opening of The Honeymooners. His original tag, "Absolutly perfect," was tweaked to "Absolut perfection" by copywriter Graham Turner. "What Geoff did is he came up with this amazingly simple idea that was not only brilliant for the moment but could last forever," said Richard Lewis, worldwide group account director.
In 1981, Absolut sold about 20,000 cases in the U.S. Last year, the figure was 3.4 million, second to Smirnoff, per Adams Liquor Handbook.