April 29, 2008

File Under “WTF?”: Belvedere Goes Down… Town

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC

Belvedere Vodka

Class act?

So I’m thumbing through my favorite geek magazine, Wired, when I’m suddenly confronted by this Belvedere Vodka ad that features a woman applying lipstick in the reflection of a belt buckle. (If any of my female readers have ever executed such a task, please let me know… What? None of you have? Gee, what a surprise…) With Freudian symbol in hand, she’s got that deer-ho in the headlights look. Not exactly what you expect to find in Wired amidst ads for techie toys and the Discovery Channel. (Hey, have we got a discovery for you…)

I’m all for creative media placement, and I reckon VC-funded geeks drink expensive vodka and fantasize about women crouching down and, um, touching up their lips. But this seems way out of character for an upscale liquor brand. And I’m not sure how this image relates to the tagline “Luxury Reborn,” unless what constitutes “luxury” has taken one hell of a dive.

So as part of my civic duty as Blogger in Chief at Atomic Tango, I have to investigate. I type in the web address, which Belvedere smartly included for Wired’s web-addicted readership (not all advertisers seem to get this point). Note: I usually disapprove of Web addresses containing hyphens or underscores since they’re difficult to remember and communicate orally, but I’m willing to endure this one for the sake of my readers.

I come upon the Belvedere site, which asks me to confirm that I am of “legal drinking age in my country of residence.” Like a savvy 13-year-old, I simply click “Yes.” (The absurdity of Web morals is enough to drive me to drink.)

I then hear a trippy trance riff as sung by some inebriated chanteuse. I’m also invited to click on “Discover Luxury Reborn” and am happy to see that Belvedere gets integrated marketing. No disconnect here. And what I see is a film trailer featuring misbehaving nouveau riche New Yorkers throwing air kisses and generally being uber-hipper than thou. Look, they’re vandalizing artwork! How edgy! How au courant! How Jack Nicholson in Batman 1989! (By the way, how do you feel knowing that the first Batman movie is now older than a college freshman?)

This trailer, I’m guessing, is for a forthcoming online Belvedere film, since there’s no explanation anywhere. As a producer of branded content, and a fan of BMW’s pioneering online films, I’m thrilled to see it. So I check out who’s starring in this one… Oh, of course: Vincent Gallo.

I sincerely loved Gallo’s film Buffalo ’66 which contains perhaps the most creative effort in cinematic history to get viewers to sympathize with a character. No petting the dog here — we follow Gallo as he’s released from prison and desperately tries to find a place to take a leak. It just gets funnier and more creative from there.

But Gallo is more infamous for other deeds. As the Trivia section of Gallo’s IMDB bio poetically puts it, “Known for his outspoken views and the outspoken way of speaking them out.” Gallo was also the writer-director of The Brown Bunny, in which actress Chloe Sevigny goes the next step beyond applying lipstick using a belt buckle.

We’ve got a theme going here, people.

The site also features interviews with other artsy New Yorkers talking about what it means to live downtown and be “underground” and “unpredictable.” Maybe Belvedere felt the need to wildly differentiate itself from all the other “preppie vodkas” flooding the market, and that they had to literally stoop to extremes to make this vodka appear edgy. I’m also thinking that Belvedere confused Wired with Conde-Nast’s other publications (Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, etc.), or that Conde-Nast sold them a package deal. Unfortunately for Belvedere, there’s no way for them to measure if this Wired ad is successful since it doesn’t contain a dedicated URL or special offer just for this publication.

Regardless of the reason, all of this should fly miles over the heads of Wired’s Silicon Valley readers (average age 37, 78% male), who define a “good time” as a Wii competition with guys from other start-ups. It remains to be seen if this ad makes them buy expensive vodka — or just really shiny belt buckles.

Update 2 April 2012: Wow, just when you think Belvedere couldn’t get any lower, they run an ad that insinuates rape and uses a stolen image. (Out of respect for the actress whose photo was stolen, I refuse to show it here.) Completely classless. I had to wait till April 2 to confirm this, in case it was an April Fools joke. How could professional marketers be that stupid?

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

6 Responses

  1. I understand their overall goal… show a girl that looks like she is about to perform or has just finished performing some kind of oral act and just show a url. That way the reader thinks he is going to see something dirty when he goes to the website.

    The style and the message is what doesn’t fit. If it were an American Apparel ad it would fit perfectly. Maybe they want to change their image from upper class “stiff” to upper class “slutty” that is why they are using the tag “Luxury Reborn”. You would expect more from an established well known brand such as this.

    Show me a pair of good tits with a url and I don’t care what you are selling… I’m going to the website!! Thats an easy sell!

  2. haha…sad you had to bring up the age of the batman movie :P

    I usually enjoy seeing an ad for say Absolut in Wired but I agree seems a bit over the top.

  3. I think it can be summed up in two words: sex sells. Is it fair or right? Maybe not, but it does get people’s attention.

  4. be careful patting yourself on the back on this one. although you were smart enough to get into harvard, you really missed the point here.

    there is a new definition of luxury in today’s world. it used to be the very old school image of old money going to the tennis club for tea and a round of golf where you cheat about your score. now it is the hipster generation that goes to clubs, drops huge $$ on bottles and looks to find a way to show the world that they are above old school rules even though they have money. using a belt buckle to put on lipstic as a tease, not after giving oral sex, captures the essense of the new definition of luxury and the hipster generation.

    if you missed the point, it probably wasn’t meant for you. unless you can honestly say you either spend (or aspire to spend) $400 for a bottle of vodka at a club and still missed the point. but i don’t think that you do that or aspire to do that. which is really not relevant. what is relevant is if you can see from a marketing perspective who the target user is and if this add reaches them.

    note, i am not a plant. i don’t work for the company. i just happen to work in the industry and disagree with you on this.


    Freddy: I think you missed the point of my article. 1) Wired magazine is a bizarre choice for this ad placement. You say “what is relevant is if you can see from a marketing perspective who the target user is and if this add [sic] reaches them.” Oh, I do see it from that perspective, and in my opinion, Belvedere is way off target. Now if they had the model putting on lipstick using the reflection off a $4000 gaming laptop, then they would be on target. 2) The ad’s low-brow innuendo is neither clever nor impressive. If faux-latio is your “new definition of luxury in today’s world,” then the young and rich obviously have lost their standards and might as well be drinking $400 cans of Schlitz malt liquor. I love edgy advertising, but instead of elevating the Belvedere brand, this ad cheapens it.

  5. Terry Richardson was never much of a feminist.

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