Adventures in Advertising: Absolut Vodka's Recent Stumble Across the Border

In an attempt to subvert U.S. political hegemony in the Americas, Absolut reinforces it. Though the vodka maker was trying to be cheeky and, presumably, take advantage of some discontent with the U.S. interventionist behavior in Latin America (stemming from its military involvement throughout the hemisphere for the past two centuries as well as the current international disenchantment following U.S. forays into Iraq and Afghanistan), Absolut was not ready for the response it garnered when it launched this ad campaign earlier this year.

The borders depict Mexico before the Mexican-American War (1848) where it lost half of its territory, including the lucrative oil fields of Texas, the mineral and agricultural wealth of California, and, well, I suppose the skiing potential of the Rockies. The Swedish company has issued a formal apology for the uproar caused by such a controversial move (where the ad clearly implies that in an "ideal" world, the territorial restructuring would not have taken place) as a result of complaints from sites such as conservative blogger Michelle Malkin.

Vitriolic and xenophobic comments aside, the campaign was a naive move on the part of the company for a number of reasons. First, directly addressing a sore and controversial issue such as the political and territorial fallout from a war requires more delicacy and deliberation. Was there no one who reviewed the ad and, personal political convictions aside, thought that international treaties and international law might be a bad subject for an alcohol ad? A friend who is a Chilean lawyer remarked, upon seeing the ad, that this was what happens when the legal risks and ramifications of a campaign are unconsidered.

Moreover, it's telling that the ideal ("Absolut") world is still post-Conquest and European. Whose ideal world is this? Surely not that of the native population decimated by violence and disease. And, the ad is in English. This subconscious slippage only reinforces the dominance of the anglophone West--that the use of English in the message is taken for granted and invisible underscores the power of English speakers.

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