A new ad by Absolut Vodka has tapped South Korea's on-going political crisis as creative inspiration, but the end result could leave the Swedish spirits giant with a nasty hangover.
Back in June, Absolut released a limited-edition bottle called 'Absolut Korea,' a coffee, almond and chili flavored vodka that the company claimed exhibited " the vibrant culture of Korea." That in itself wasn't alarming as Absolut is known for a steady stream of new flavors based on global trends, countries and cultures. In May, it released 'Absolut Buenos Aires' and one its more recent products is a dedication to nightlife called 'Absolut Facet.'
But over the weekend, the quintessential brand may have taken its reference of popular culture too far by releasing a new ad for 'Absolut Korea' that features a time-lapse photograph of a candlelight anti-government protest in Seoul, with the crowd's shape taking on the appearance of an Absolut bottle.
It has sparked outrage among some South Koreans, who are still dealing with the consequences of a political scandal that could see President Park Geun-hye become the nation's first female leader to get impeached. Since late October, protests against Park have been a normal occurrence and the country is now mired in uncertainty amid the prospect of earlier-than-expected elections and fears of potential damage to the economy.
"This is shameless, selfish industrial advertising," commented one South Korean on Facebook in response to the brand's Dec. 10 post. "Do not commercialize our democracy," another wrote.
Some netizens however praised Absolut for its innovative approach, noting that the ad was a celebration of South Korean democracy.
"I actually like their clever use of the image, I love the statement (and encouragement to Korean people) that the future is yours to create," said one Facebook user.
Absolut's ad campaigns, which typically feature the vodka bottle against creative backgrounds, rank among the world's most iconic and are frequently saved, alongside the bottles, by customers as collector items. But 'Absolut Korea' isn't the first time the risk-taking brand has landed in hot water.
For a 2008 ad designed to run only in Mexico, Absolut showed a map that depicted the southwestern U.S. as a part of the Latin American nation, which resulted in a heated debate about illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S.