Stay Tuned/Absolut Self-Effacement

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

Absolut Self-Effacement
3 March 1997

On the back cover of WIRED magazine, March 1997 issue (that's the one with the big blue hand on the cover), there is a very odd Absolut vodka advertisement.

I can't reproduce it here. Although I don't mind cutting out little bits and snippets, I'd have to show you the entire ad for you to get the desired effect, and Absolut is known to be finicky about such things (particularly for this one, which is one of the "sorry, poster not available" ones - do you ever read all that copy at the bottom, or is it just me? - which probably means the artist was being finicky too).

It shows a woman trapped inside an Absolut bottle. The woman is either very small or the rest of the scene is very large, because the bottle is being held by two hands in rubber gloves. These hands belong to a figure in surgical or perhaps clean-room garb; the tile walls visible in the back confirm that we are in a hospital or a lab.

We can't see the large figure's face, only his/her eye, which is looking at the bottle (also directly at the reader, given the angle in the ad) through one of those lamps which is a circular fluorescent bulb with a magnifying lens in the center. The eye is therefore very large and horrific. The woman appears to be scared; she has her arms up, legs apart, and her fingers splayed. She's either shocked or she's pressing her hands against the wall of the bottle, hard to say which.

The whole ad is done in a green-gray duotone which adds to the horror-movie feel. Significantly, the Absolut imprint is not on the bottle.

My question is: is this supposed to promote the product? Is it really a good marketing idea to promote a product with someone trapped in one of their bottles, an image which (in context) suggests being preserved as a lab specimen, a bad DT hallucination, and a morality play on the evils of Demon Rum all in one?

Honestly. Adbusters has done many parodies of Absolut ads; this belongs right there on their pages. But it's real. All the usual Absolut indicia are at the bottom.

I'm no friend to alcohol advertising. But with enemies like this, who needs friends?

[27 February 1998] I thought of this little essay a few days ago when I was surfing sites devoted to odd sexual fetishes, for an unrelated project. One site is devoted to images and stories about women being shrunk and rendered helpless, and by golly, this ad is one of the images.

Clearly these people immediately recognized the ad for what it was: the artist's fetishes at work. But this still begs the question of why Absolut would have been willing to run it. Unless they comissioned it and were determined to get their money's worth at any cost.

I like the image, by the way. Don't misconstrue. It's an excellent, creepy image. But not the most effective sales pitch in the world.

[19 February 2007] I have tried and tried to find an online image of this ad. I've been up and down very comprehensive galleries and descriptions of Absolut ads. I can't find it. (And the shrinking-woman site mentioned above is no more.) One wonders if perhaps the nice Absolut people got a clue. I still lean toward the "we paid for it, by god we're gonna run it once and then never mention it again" theory. If anyone has a copy of the March 1997 issue of WIRED lying around, let me know.

and now back to our program

The material on these pages is copyright © 1997-2007. All rights reserved.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these articles is a protected/trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied. When advertising materials are excerpted here it is for express purposes of commentary and criticism, and thereby protected under the Fair Use provisions of U.S. copyright law.

Personal tools
eccentric flower