Taxi Embraces Sweden in Gevalia Campaign

Brand's first retail push introduces 'Johan'

Gevalia coffee is getting in touch with its inner Swede.

Taxi this week launched a major ad campaign for the Swedish brand that centers around "Johan," a suave, well-dressed character with Brad Pitt-like hair. He's the European alternative to "Joe"—as in an American cup of Joe—and personifies a coffee that's worth taking the time to savor and sip from a china cup.

The push began with an online video in which Johan talks lovingly about the Swedish lifestyle of swimming in arctic waters, special massages and "taking time out to enjoy ourselves with fika." Without explaining that fika means coffee break in Swedish, Johan implies something more suggestive, recalling the details of his "first fika."

"I was 17. It was on the kitchen counter with my au pair. Didn't last very long," he says, before pausing a few seconds to contemplate the memory and then filling in the blanks for the viewer.

The campaign, backed by an estimated $30-40 million in media spending, also includes TV, Web banners and a presence on Facebook. The broad push coincides with the coffee's crossover from a mail-order brand to one now sold in grocery stores.

Brand parent Kraft Foods has a lot riding on the effort, given that Gevalia is meant to replace Starbucks as its premium coffee brand at retail. Kraft previously distributed Starbucks at supermarkets, but the two are in the midst of a lengthy divorce. "Cup of Johan" represents Taxi New York's first work for Kraft since joining the company's agency roster last year.

The Swedish character was born of the challenge of distinguishing a premium coffee in a crowded marketplace. Or as Kraft's Kim Bealle put it: "What would be interesting to people about the 13th or 14th brand out there?"

Johan also was designed to connect with the brand's core sales target of women 35-45. Bealle described him as "appealing" and "a little bit seductive, but he stays on the right side of it."

Finding an actor who fit the bill wasn't easy, according to Dave Clemans, executive creative director at Taxi. The search took a few months, even after the agency cast a wide net in America, Europe and, of course, Sweden.

The key was "getting that right tone," Clemans said. "He wants to please these women. He wants to make them happy. He's coming from Sweden; he knows how wonderful it can be and he wants to bring it to them. It's all about exciting them and making their life better."

Expect to see Johan on talk shows as well, as part of Kraft's push for media exposure for Gevalia.

The campaign is expected to run throughout the year.