In the real world, music and cocktails go hand in hand. In an Absolut world, music and cocktails come with racing robotic greyhounds remotely controlled by a trio of DJs, spurred on by a cast of characters that make Lady Gaga look casual.
An evolution of its longstanding tradition of collaborating with artists, Absolut Vodka’s Drinks 2.0 campaign ventures beyond artist-rendered print ads to a collaboration with dance maestros Swedish House Mafia on an original track and music video to promote its Absolut Greyhound cocktail.
“Greyhound”--which is the title of the drink, the video, and the actual music track--is a three-minute visual feast created by TBWA\Chiat\Day that sees three groups of couture-sporting racing enthusiasts converge on the Bonneville Salt Flats to watch some robotic greyhounds speed across the parched plains, all while sipping light pink Abolut Greyhounds. While the fabulous people in the desert give each other the "my team’s going to win" stink-eye, the three members of Swedish House Mafia are off in a desolate bunker remotely controlling the robodogs to a photo-finish while ensconced in holographic orbs. With impeccable direction from RSA’s Carl Erik Rinsch, eye-popping visual effects from Home, gonzo wardrobe styling from Franck Chevalier, and a banging club track from Swedish House Mafia, this is not an exercise in understated elegance.
Maxime Kouchnir, Vice President, Vodkas, Pernod Ricard USA, says that where much of the brand’s previous marketing efforts have focused on print, and its Drinks 1.0 campaign brought together actors and visionary photographers to create worlds around specific cocktails, “Greyhound” was meant to elevate the idea of collaboration to “a multidimensional, multi-sensory experience with drinks and music.” The goal was also to create something that skewed a bit younger than Absolut’s 25-35 urban influencers (neo-yuppies in marketing speak), which made SHM a good musical match.
“With everything we do on Absolut we have the pleasure of looking at things through an Absolut lens, like pushing the limits of what a greyhound dog race could be in an Absolut place,” says TBWA\Chiat\Day creative director Hoj Jomehri. “We said, where do people go to really go fast? The Bonneville Salt Flats. And what if these aren’t just regular greyhound dogs, but are gigantic robotic dogs? And what if the band is actually controlling them in this other setting? We just play creatively and push it as far as we can.”
Not surprisingly, given the name of the cocktail, the greyhound was the creative crux of the idea. “The name Absolut Greyhound was so inspiring because greyhound just sounds so sexy and sleek and fast, and all of the associations you have with the dog seemed to inspire that whole world,” says TBWA\Chiat\Day global creative director Sue Anderson. “Then once we knew who the band was, that inspired a fair amount of the video as well. SHM aren’t traditional musicians who are playing guitars and drums. They are DJs and music producers. That’s where the idea came from that they would be controlling the dogs because that’s so much of what they do: They go and stand in front of crowds and control music and the energy and the vibe. Then, once we had SHM we knew that we would have three dogs.”
This direction left things wide open for director Carl Erik Rinsch to create something fantastical. No stranger to sleek and fast robots (he directed “The Gift” from Philips that featured a renegade roboguard in a dystopian future Russia, which was awarded the first ever Grand Prix for Film Craft at the 2010 Cannes Lions), Rinsch immediately had a vision for the dogs.
“We’d said they had to be bigger than typical dog size, we wanted them to feel robotic and metallic, but also very elegant and sleek,” says Anderson. “Right on that very first call with Carl he was like, ‘I know exactly what these dogs should look like.’ He actually already had a drawing, he sent over an initial sketch and we went, ‘That’s exactly what they should look like.’”
“Carl understood inherently that you should have an emotional attachment to these dogs, so when they got to animating the race you really got a sense that these were three distinct characters and you were rooting for one or the other in the race,” adds Jomehri. “That’s a really difficult thing to do when you’re speaking about robotic dogs.”
Given that “Greyhound” is part music video, part ad, it will be distributed across a number of channels. “When it come to our target, music is their number one passion point and they live in the digital space so the campaign is really going to primarily TV and digital,” says Absolut’s Kouchnir. The track will premiere on Pete Tong’s BBC Radio One, and the full-length music video will be distributed to MTV and VEVO. Shorter versions will air on TV with a Shazam for TV integration, taking viewers to the full video. All of this will also drive to www.absolut.com/remix and Facebook where fans can remix the track "with the band" and share it with friends.
Kouchnir also says this is the first step in the vodka maker’s new direction of “creating cocktail worlds through the lens of music.” Upcoming artists include U.K. pop artis Dan Black and Swedish rock band Little Dragon, both of which will create original music tracks based on specific Absolut vodkas.
Until then, however, we’re left to wonder if we’ll ever find out which of Absolut’s desert speed demons wins the race, and which group of eccentric enthusiasts claims victory ("Afraid not," says Kouchnir). Watch behind-the-scenes footage below.