In an era that has seen product branding elevated to high art and marketing strategies crafted as holy rites in the religion of mass consumerism, Absolut vodka’s recent decision to spike the punch bowl with an intentionally provocative ad should hardly be surprising — or cause for much hyperbolic consternation.
The company is well known for its cutting-edge ad campaigns that infuse its iconic vodka bottle and brand name with the people, places and events of our pop culture world. Political messaging, both latent and blatant, has been an integral part of its marketing styling, which has been accomplished with unquestionable panache.
Absolut raised the hackles of so many of my colleagues in the movement to reduce immigration by daring to depict a Spanish map of early 19th-century North America with a punch line of “In An Absolut World.”The offense, evidently, is that the ad shows the vast stretch of territory north of the Rio Grande that once indeed was Mexico’s, however tenuously, up until the independence of Texas and the Mexican-American War that ended in 1848. In doing so, the ad panders to those Mexicans — the ad ran only in Mexico — that still view the loss of that war and land 160 years ago as somehow relevant to their lives today — which says a lot about why Mexico is in the state it is in today.
And, yes, the ad does offer a wink and grin to the Latino activists north of the border who pursue an aggressive ethnocentric agenda, one that holds the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as the enshrinement of America’s theft of “their land.” Further scrutiny of these Latino radicals’ rhetoric reveals they claim title to the entire North American continent, which may come as a surprise to the folks up in Winnipeg.
As news of the ad campaign went viral across the United States, the reaction was predictably furious, with calls of a boycott against Absolut rising faster than you could say “mazel tov.” Cable news pundits, bloggers and talk radio all piled on this insulting affront to American sovereignty.
Naturally, Absolut issued an apology that was somewhere between insincere and embarrassing: “In no way was it 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.”
Actually, the ad does all of the above and intentionally so.
But the longer I look at the ad and consider its message and context, far from getting angrier, I am just left wondering what the big deal’s all about?
Viewed against the wholesale meltdown of border security, enforcement of our immigration laws and in the absence of any coherent leadership from federal officials on immigration and population growth issues, an Absolut vodka ad ranks somewhere between a crass distraction and insignificant absurdity.
In this age of outrage, we should pour our disgust a little more responsibly.
As the 120-proof hyperbole flew over Absolut’s ad, the family and friends of 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw Jr. was dealing with their grief and pain over Jamiel’s brutal murder at the hands of an illegal immigrant gang member who had been arrested and released the day before Jamiel was killed in Los Angeles.
Now, that’s enraging.
Jamiel’s family sought to raise awareness of the thousands of illegal immigrant gang members in Los Angeles alone, pushing the City Council to discard Special Order 40 or significantly alter it so that police can be more engaged in getting criminals who are in the country illegally off the streets and into a deportation holding cell.
In response, Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes said the city’s economy couldn’t afford such a change in policy and that community “unity” would be shattered by it.
Now, that’s outrageous.
The deep-seated anger that American citizens of all ethnicities feel over illegal immigration is rooted in a government that no longer represents their interests; in an immigration system that is far more manipulated and gamed than broken.
Eight years of a disastrous immigration nonpolicy by the Teetotaler-in-Chief, a president who apparently hasn’t taken so much as a nip in over 20 years, that’s infuriating; and maybe if he poured himself a stiff one and took a look at the plight of low-skilled American workers, he might get a clue.
Absolut vodka does what businesses do — pander to a market demographic. Perhaps not the smartest marketing move to make, but it is unlikely that the Swedish firm’s ad will result in any increase of the human tide that now flows across the southern border.
If it really, really bothers you; then let me suggest a simple response: Stolichnaya.
In the meantime, let’s focus our rage where it matters.
Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.