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FROM THE BLOGS

Glasses clink there, teeth grit here over ad

Reaction to Absolut's vodka campaign in Mexico is mixed. But the firm says it didn't mean to stir debate.

April 05, 2008|Deborah Bonello and Reed Johnson | Special to The Times

MEXICO CITY — The latest advertising campaign in Mexico from Swedish vodka maker Absolut seemed to push all the right buttons south of the U.S. border, but it ruffled a few feathers in El Norte.

As word of the campaign spread across the border, primarily via the Internet, some in the United States began giving the campaign a much more hostile reception.

The colorful ad, created by the TeranTBWA agency and the vodka maker, is a sight gag depicting what a map of North America might look like "In an Absolut world," i.e., a perfect one.

It shows the Mexican border extending, very roughly, to its position during the 1800s before the Mexican-American War.

At that time, California as we now know it was part of Mexican territory and known as Alta California. Those territories eventually became U.S. property after the voluntary annexation of Texas and, later, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Jeffrey Moran, a spokesman for Absolut in New York, said Friday that the company had received numerous complaints about the ad, which won't be running in the United States. The ads ran for about two months in Mexico and had been scheduled to end this week.

Moran acknowledged that the ad had inflamed the already heated immigration debate and that the campaign had been accused of being anti-American, which he said was "never the intention of Absolut."

"This ad certainly has nothing to do with immigration issues or anti-Mexican sentiments," Moran said. "It's based on a historical perspective on what Mexico was once. That's all."

A Friday post about the campaign on The Times' La Plaza blog generated hundreds of responses, both positive and negative, about the campaign.

Many readers who posted comments said they found the ad offensive and planned to boycott Absolut.

But others, who liked the ad, indicated they would make a point of buying the vodka.

Some advertising directors commended the ad's creativity but agreed that it would play better in Puebla than Peoria.

"I think the Absolut ad campaign is terrific. For Mexican eyes only, that is," said Manny Gonzalez, vice president and managing director of Hill Holliday Hispanic/abece, a Miami-based ad agency specializing in the Latino market.

"This advertising basically taps into a very painful episode of Mexico's history, so the cultural code for understanding that [for Mexicans] is 'We were robbed,' " said Eduardo Caccia, vice president of Mindcode, a Mexico City advertising consultancy. "For the U.S. it's different. The understanding for that episode is 'We bought some land. We made a deal.' The same event, but with different meanings."

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reed.johnson@latimes.com

Bonello is a special correspondent and Johnson is a Times staff writer.

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