Is it wise for a global beverage company to pander to radical politics while alienating a much wider consumer base?
Absolut, the Swedish-owned vodka maker, apparently drinks to that. Last week, my e-mailbox lit up with messages from readers and fellow bloggers about a new Absolut ad catering to Mexican drinkers who believe the American Southwest belongs to them. (That extreme ethno-supremacist idea, of course, is not news to anyone who has paid attention to the massive illegal alien marches of the past two years -- where "This is our continent, not yours" has been a rallying mainstay.) As part of its "In an Absolut World" campaign in print magazines and on billboards, the company featured a large color photo of a redrawn map of the continental United States. The ad imposed pre-1848 borders on America, with Mexico swallowing up California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.
Here's how Favio Ucedo, creative director of leading U.S. Latino advertising agency Grupo Gallegos, which was not involved in the Absolut campaign, explained the reconquista-endorsing ad to the Los Angeles Times: "Mexicans talk about how the Americans stole their land, so this is their way of reclaiming it. It's very relevant and the Mexicans will love the idea."
Oops. Guess he didn't get the liberal talking points manual: You're supposed to deny that reconquista exists and label anyone who criticizes it as a delusional racist. And remember: The National Council of La Raza ("the race") claims that reconquista is just a "code word" invented by conservative "hate groups" who are dreaming the whole thing up.
Reader Paul Hergert wrote to Absolut: "Your company's illustration of Mexico occupying a large part of the western United States is reprehensible for myriad reasons. Not only is it an anachronistic and ersatz view of geography, it also unnecessarily inflames American/Mexican tensions. I understand that marketing is to be provocative, but when it can be used as propaganda for certain people/nations, it has crossed the line into the political realm and is, therefore, inappropriate."