Martin Goes on the Wagon

Resigns Finlandia Vodka Account, Citing Creative Differences
ATLANTA–The Martin Agency has resigned the Finlandia Vodka advertising account.
Agency partner and head of account management Brad Armstrong confirmed that the Richmond, Va., shop has stepped away from the business, saying, “We have parted ways with our friends at Finlandia, based on different views about the direction of their advertising.”
Armstrong said the account’s billings had dipped slightly, but that was not the reason for the split. He estimated the business was worth “about $10 million annually.” Competitive Media Reporting cites 1998 ad spending at $9.2 million; $4.4 million through October 1999.
“They have a terrific product and we’re proud of the work we’ve done for them,” Armstrong said, pointing out that Martin’s advertising for Finlandia Vodka was recently named 1999’s best distilled spirits campaign by Beverage Digest.
“I think the best clue [about our motivation] is to look at [Finlandia’s] existing work, which has been running in People magazine for the past several months,” Armstrong said. “The Martin Agency was not responsible for that work.
. . . The ads were largely done by Brown-Forman.”
Brown-Forman is the Finnish company’s U.S. distributor, based in Louisville, Ky., as is the Finlandia North American division.
An ad in the Nov. 22 People features the results of a “taste test” sponsored by Russian Life magazine. Finlandia was the winner, topping a number of international competitors such as Russia’s Cristall, England’s Tanqueray Sterling, and Skyy and Smirnoff of the U.S. A ribbon, inscribed “Winner of the 1999 International Vodka Taste-off,” is prominently displayed next to the Finlandia bottle in the print ad.
Edie Paulson, marketing administrator at Finlandia, said any questions about the account would have to been answered by brand manager John Vidal. Vidal did not return calls by press time.