Dark Comedy Sketches Work To Modernize ’80s Vodka Brand

The New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a feature on comedian Zach Galifianakis a couple weeks ago. In the piece, author John Wray mentions the Absolut Vodka “ads” Galifianakis did.

The resulting three sketches, made in collaboration with the absurdist comedy duo Tim and Eric (of “Awesome Show, Great Job!” part of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming), attain levels of absurdity — and, at times, flat-out stupidity — that test the limits of belief, even in this golden age of irreverent, self-reflexive, cooler-than-thou advertising.
“My only editing note to Tim and Eric, after we’d shot the first clip,” Galifianakis said, “was ‘Let’s make it impossible for someone to think that this is an actual ad.’ After we finished that first clip, the creative director of the ad campaign told me that it was his favorite thing he’d done in 10 years. He really seemed to appreciate how far we’d taken things.” He paused a moment. “I was pretty surprised by that, to tell you the truth.”

I like his spirit and his effort to make it “not an ad,” but let’s make a potentially complicated argument over “what’s an ad?” and “what’s not?” very simple. If the product or service is prominently featured it’s an ad.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.