Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Purity Values - The Connection Between Deepwater Horizon & Vodka

I remember vividly Mary Stow at HHCL & Partners urging me to push really hard on the VALUES of the clients we have in advertising and I've carried that important lesson with me for many years. All too frequently many 'wannabe' brands share only one common tangible value and that is shareholder return, or chasing money in plain language if you wish. There's nothing wrong with making money and indeed wealth creation has many positive effects, but if that's the raison d'etre for an organisation, it practically sweats from the pores of their executives and makes a squelching sound from the carpets of the boardrooms as we make our way about the C-Suite.

I've been saying to a bunch of communication thinkers around London that in an age of ubiquitous product parity, a legitimate (and possibly the most powerful differential) for a brand to leverage are its values. In the absence of any values there's not much to really talk about and this may well explain why so much advertising is rubbish. Its just talk.

The area that gets me most excited is the potential for brands to STAND for something and I can think of no finer example than this terrific commercial by JWT London with Digital by AKQA for Smirnoff Vodka. Of course its about purity but by reminding us of the dumping ground that we have made of the oceans Smirnoff are implicitly obliged from now on to take an interest in the purity of the seas, lakes and environment. An obvious value for a brand claiming to own purity. This is a good thing in my book and a reason to insist on the Smirnoff label from hereon because I'm interested in brands that have values - particularly ones that are about the environment as I've mentioned back here. Enjoy this well crafted commercial and thanks to Scamp for provoking a post out of me that has been simmering for a long time. I hope Diageo start to live up to some of their epic responsibilities with this type of advertising and begin to think about some branded utility, otherwise I'm back to ordering any old Vodka & Coke. They do after all taste the same with a mixer. Heresy, but the absolute truth nonetheless.


  1. You're right - this is a wonderfully epic ad; by Smirnoff adopting environmentalism as a vehicle for its claims to purity, the brand is showing that it's in tune with the green zeitgeist.
    I have one reservation though, and that's whether everyone watching the ad will "get" it. The visual clues are all there but I have always been doubtful whether your average punter really is open to understanding when a brand is trying to communicate its values unless it's done in an obvious manner.
    I don't think those values are obvious here. There's stuff about purity and not throwing things into the sea, but I foresee much headscratching and contemplation over the lack of corpses, the taste of seawater, and what that's got to do with vodka.

  2. Hi Chimpy. Yes I was in two minds to start commending Smirnoff but I do feel that by raising there head above the parapet on this one, at least in the eyes of the thinking media, I don't think they will be able to duck down and forget they ever made this ad - They may have inadvertently started something which I hope becomes pervasive; brands taking positions on the environment (or not), so we can work out who really values their customers most and who just talks a good game.

  3. True but nice.
    I think JWT are up to something..


  4. Charles...
    As I have posted on AdScam and commented on amy blogs covereing this GREAT ad... It's just a fucking ad... It's to sell one of the world's most inferior vodkas. It isn't about saving the fucking planet... It's abou selling booze. Works for me. Kudos to JWT/London... JWT/NY wouldn't have done this in a million years... 'Cos the CD's on tha account are wankers.
    You going to be in LA for the PSFK trendfest???

  5. Hi George. I'm sure its about selling Vodka but I'd be very surprised if they have tried to pull a greenwashing number. I'd also be ok if they postrationalise and get their act together on sustainable issues. Every little helps mate ;)

    I'm working on LA very shortly squire.