Monday, April 07, 2008

Absolut truth

A map that Absolut vodka used in an ad campaign seems to have hurt American sentiment, according to this blog that tracks unusual maps.

The map shows what the US-Mexican border would look like in an ‘absolut’ (i.e. perfect) world: a large part of the US’s west is annexed to Mexico.

The blog explains:

Large swathes of the western US used to be part of Mexico. In 1836, American settlers proclaimed the independence of Texas, formally a Mexican territory. The US annexation of Texas in 1845 prompted the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), after which Mexico was forced to cede 525,000 square miles of territory (42% of its pre-war territory, 12% of the US’s current territory).

Mexico didn’t have much choice: a US army occupied Mexico City, and the alternative was total annexation. The Mexican Cession consisted of the territories of Alta California and Nueva Mexico, out of which were eventually formed the US states of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.

In this ‘absolut’ version of the world, the US and Mexico are about the same size.

But, what I found most interesting was the response of Absolut to the American protest:

We are sorry if we offended anyone. This was not our intention. We will try to explain. Though you may not agree, I hope you understand.”

“We have a variety of executions running in countries worldwide, and each is germane to that country and that population. This particular ad, which ran in Mexico, was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility. In no way was this meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues. Instead, it hearkens to a time which the population of Mexico may feel was more ideal.”

“Obviously, this ad was run in Mexico, and not the US — that ad might have been very different.”

I found this refreshingly candid. No multi-national organisation can have one global marketing campaign. As the jargon goes, they have to think global, but act local. So, national and regional sensibilities have to be factored in all the time. This will obviously create issues that will need tackling. A map of India, cut off at the LOC, will invite a stern notice from the Govt of India. And, if drawn the Indian way, will anger Pakistan.

And, within India, you never can say what part of the ad will affect the sensibility of which religious group or linguistic community. When this happens, the usual response is to apologise profusely or to withdraw the ad and come out with one that is neutral in all respects ( and terribly dull, in the process)

So, when Absolut tells an ‘injured’ party, honestly, that they were appealing to the Mexican perception of an ideal world, which may not necessarily tally with the USA’s, I admire the stand they are taking.


Pramod Biligiri said...

Yep! I admire Absolut for this.

It's usually the done thing to bow down before nation-states. Absolut showed some pluck here.

Raj said...

pramod, that's my point too.