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Absolut Breakthrough: CBS Allows Spirits Ad During Grammys

Those tuning into the Grammys may have caught a glimpse of a television milestone, and it didn’t happen on stage at the music awards show.

Absolut vodka debuted a new ad, marking the first time a spirits brand aired a commercial during the Grammys. More importantly, it was also a first for spirits advertising in prime time in several CBS markets.

The ad, which ran in 15 of the largest media markets on many CBS-owned-and-operated stations, is a breakthrough for the spirits industry, which has been rebuffed in its attempts to buy airtime on the major networks in the past.

No doubt, the proliferation of advertisements on cable stations and local network affiliates has laid the groundwork for this event.

“We’re not surprised, it’s been a steady progression,” said Frank Coleman, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, an industry trade group.

Coleman said the television advertising of spirits brands has built steadily over the past decade, although it has leveled off more recently as companies have spent more of their ad budget online.

Absolut, a Swedish vodka brand that was purchased by Pernod Ricard last year, has long been known for its memorable advertising.

“I think we continue to take an innovative approach to media and advertising,” said Ian Crystal, brand director of Absolut Vodka at Pernod Ricard USA.

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According to Crystal, there wasn’t any resistance at CBS and its affiliates. He attributes this to the “iconic” nature of the Absolut brand.

For the first 25 years, the brand’s image was built around print advertising that centered on the distinctive shape of its bottle. But the campaign shifted in May 2007, with the launch of the “In An Absolut World” campaign. Now about 30 percent to 40 percent of the brand’s ad budget is spent on television and film advertising.

According to Crystal, the campaign’s concept is about ideas, which translate well on film, and therefore lends itself to television advertising.

The latest incarnation of the campaign is the “Hugs” spot, which depicts scenes from an idealized world. As the music of Louis Armstrong plays, people from around the world exchange hugs and other signs of affection rather than currency.

The 30-second spot, created by ad agency TBWAChiatDay, will continue to air on broadcast and cable in seven key markets over the next week.

Events like the Grammys are often used by advertisers as a way of reaching a mass audience joined by a common interest.

Music is a leading interest among adults 21 years to 24 years old, who are Absolut’s key demographic.

Last year, the Grammy Awards reached an estimated 17 million viewers. Ratings for Sunday’s show were not immediately available.

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Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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