Seeing The Problem Absolutely

Mexicans' dream on display.

Absolut Vodka has an advertising theme "In An Absolut World" which tries to associate their product with memorable places, situations, and sites all over the world.  They've shown skiing, climate, cities, and thousands of other images.  Each ad has some form of an image of a bottle of vodka.  The goal is to associate Absolut Vodka with something for which most people who see the ad will have a pleasant memory or a favorable impression.

Cultural associations are pretty tricky, even for large, experienced companies.  The Chevy Nova did not sell well in Latin America because, in Spanish, "no va" means "won't go."  When "martini" is transliterated into Chinese, it means "the horse kicked you."  That's not a bad description, actually, but not so good for sales.

When Coca-Cola first started selling in China, the product name in Chinese meant "bite the wax tadpole."  Many thousands of dollars later, their name meant "may the happy mouth rejoice," which is an obvious improvement.

Large international advertisers like Absolut spend significant sums of money on focus groups, cultural research, and polling to see how people view ads before they're run.  Thus, whenever we see an ad from an expensive campaign, we can be pretty sure that the people who paid for the ad were careful to make sure that the intended audience would have a favorable impression.

The Absolut ad shown here is no exception; the advertising agency clearly expected the readers of the Mexican magazine Quien to have a favorable view of a map showing the US-Mexican border as it was before 1848.  The blogger who posted the ad wrote,

But in an "Absolut World," wonderful things can happen, including getting the U.S.-Mexico border straight once and for all.

There were comments in favor of the concept behind the ad:

I love this ad! Let us never forget that a large part of the U.S. was once Mexico. How then can we be immigrants on what was once our land?. Que Viva Mexico!

And comments against the ad:

I was born and raised and educated in Mexico, this has got to be the biggest sour grapes ad ever. We lost tons of what was then OUR territory, because we were weak, stupid and corrupt, no one in Mexico cared about 2/3 of the old Nueva Espana until after they discovered gold in California and no one in Mexico cared about that territory until the USA built it up with roads, cities, towns, services, industry in the early 20th century. Guess what, it's the 21st century and Mexico is still weak, stupid and corrupt, socially, economically and governmentally. Instead of working to build a great society, instead of Mexican society working as a team and building a 1st class country with the tons of human and natural resources we have, we covet jealously what we could have had, what the USA became and is.  It's because the Americans are smart and they have their checks and balances socially, politically and economically they built an empire out of 13 piece of dirt colonies.  The Spaniards gave us an empire in terms of land and as a society we pissed it away.  The problem is that Mexicans never look at themselves as the problem, which we are, naturally we always look at some one else to blame for our own failings.

I had the good fortune of marrying into an American family that embraced me regardless of my origins.  These social and political conservatives are some of the most generous and hard working people and some of the closest knit humans you will find.  I am lucky to have left Mexico, and I will never return to Mexico, I will die for the USA and my sons will die for the USA because it has given me everything.

The important point is not that bloggers who saw the ad agreed or disagreed about the map.  What's important is that a highly-paid ad agency believed that most Mexicans who saw the ad would be favorably impressed.  Absolut believes that they will gain by linking their concept of "An Absolut World" to a world in which significant parts of the American West are part of Mexico.

Ad executives are acutely aware of what their audience wants.  They don't always get it right, but the feedback loop of the marketplace naturally incentives them to give it their best shot each and every time.

Scragged has previously discussed what illegal immigrants from Mexico feel "is already theirs" in the United States.  It has become so clear that European businesses are now seeing and marketing to it.  Nobody can say we weren't warned.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Immigration.
Reader Comments
This warranted an article?
April 7, 2008 4:12 PM
It illustrates what a giant international company's millions of dollars' worth of opinion research, focus groups, and other studies has found: that a very significant number of potential purchasers of vodka in Mexico (i.e. all the adults) think their country should own the Western US, and that an insignificant number finds the thought offensive. Given that tens of millions of such people are flooding into the Western US without any substantive hindrance, then yes, I'd say it's worth an article. The word "invasion" is no longer hyperbole.
April 7, 2008 4:58 PM
A single ad campaign is hardly proof that all adult Mexicans think that Western US SHOULD belong to Mexico. Perhaps it represents some wishful thinking (that history went differently), but such thoughts are hardly out of the ordinary as part of a national psyche. Many Danes are still upset that a large chunk of what was once Denmark now belongs to Germany. Would such an ad go over well there? I'm quite sure it already has.

Canadians would certainly have the same feelings if they were aware how much of the US once belonged to what was to become Canada. There are many more examples.

And I'm not really sure why Mexicans who have fled Mexico would want the country they fled to follow them North. That seems rather illogical.
April 8, 2008 1:14 PM
And that last thought is well backed by the second comment you quoted.
April 8, 2008 1:16 PM
The point here, for me at least, is that US politicians can't seem to see what all the rest of us can. The US has become so overrun with illegals that many of them are now making demands for America to no longer be America. They want the language changed. They expect the rights of citizens. They expect free health care and education.
April 8, 2008 1:22 PM
Will the Vodka pushers run a similar ad with a star and crescent overlying France and Germany? Probably not only because liquor is not the drug of choice for Muslims.
April 8, 2008 4:26 PM
Latin America was settled from Spain and Portugal('conquered', they were 'conquistadors' were they not?.They crossed the Atlantic as soldiers, priests, plunderers, landowners with grants from their respective Monarchs and their court's huge bureaucracy that frizzled individual initiative in Their Kings' Name. Then some darn refugees from religious strife, with strange notions of work and progress landed to their North; messed things up ...
April 8, 2008 5:22 PM
The language changed? From what to what? There is no Official United States language.
Free health care? What free health care?
Free education..? Maybe, but not education that was worth the trip.

What they want is a "decent" job. If they could get that in Mexico, I'm they wouldn't have risked their life to cross the border.
April 8, 2008 5:47 PM
America is a country of "united states". Nearly every state has an official language. Texas, New Mexico and Florida have all entertained legislation to have Spanish be the official state language, changing it from the previously established English. Florida was the only state of the three to entertain the bill seriously, but the fact is - the idea of changing state languages has not only crossed people's minds, it has been written down and proposed.

If you can't figure out how they're getting free health care, your eyes are soundly and voluntarily closed. Four hospitals have declared bankruptcy in Arizona in the past several years because of cash flow problems. Read that: they couldn't collect enough state and federal repayments quick enough to pay the basic hospital operational costs for all the illegals that were using the hospitals and skipping on the bills. California is so overwhelmed by illegal immigrant traffic, special laws and regulations are being rolled out on a quarterly basis. LA, in particular, is overwhelmed. In 2004, LA was spending $340 million PER YEAR to treat illegals. That was roughly $1,000 for every taxpayer. It's almost doubled since then.

(Not sure how to respond to your last comment. Your suggesting that education in the US is worse than that of Mexico?)
April 8, 2008 5:58 PM
I have a tough time believing that they were going to *change* the official language to Spanish. Maybe to add it as an official language. But then, if New Mexico were to have an official language, it would likely be both English and Spanish, and this was also the case when the state joined the confederation. Hardly related to the recent waves of illegal immigration.

It seems like you also have quite a sense of entitlement... If elected representatives were to vote to consider Spanish an official language, where is the problem? Is it because your language is better then theirs? Spanish-speaking Americans have as much of a right to vote as you do.

Point taken on the health care issue.

As for education, I admit ignorance on the quality of primary and secondary education in Mexico, but the American counterpart is certainly lagging behind other developed countries.
April 8, 2008 6:17 PM
Actually, I don't care what the official language with regard to English or Spanish. My concern is one of logistics. I feel that a central, declared, official language is essential to promoting economic efficiency. Consider the recent case with the guy in Philadelphia who was taken to court for insisting that his restaurant only would serve customers in English. At first glance, you and I might not want to be friends with the guy because he obviously exudes a sense of hostility. But consider his logistical concerns. If the city says that he MUST accept business, not matter the language, the city is practically saying that he must have someone on hand that knows the language of any given person who might walk through the door. If he doesn't understand the person, the city is saying that that is HIS fault; not theirs. I think that kind of policy is absurd. You?
April 8, 2008 6:25 PM
Who really cares? Absolut is a peddler of spirits. Budweiser's most successful ad campaigns involved odd, basal-toned frogs and a group of stoned slackers yelling "Wazzzup!!" over and over again. Are we really going to debate political issues over what a liquor company does?
April 10, 2008 8:59 AM
HA! Maybe the advertising designers at Absolut were sampling their own product when they designed this.
April 10, 2008 9:10 AM
It looks like many readers are missing Will's point. Who cares what a vodka company thinks? Nobody. But it is the business of the vodka company to know what their CUSTOMER thinks.

Budweiser's talking-frog ads show that Budweiser's research indicated that people think talking frogs are funny. No profound truths there, but it does indicate at least that much.

By the fact that Absolut ran their ad, it shows that their market research must have indicated that the thought of owning the Western US appeals to most Mexicans. If it didn't, Absolut would have used some other ad, obviously. This is well worth knowing, as no ordinary poll would dare to ask that question - but, in effect, that's what Absolut did.

It is an indicator - not proof, obviously, but a significant indicator nonetheless - that we need to be very very careful about how many immigrants we allow in at one time. We cannot permit more people to come than we can safely absorb as they become Americans instead of Mexicans or whatever.

The point is not that it matters what Absolut thinks - but what Mexicans think, as indicated by Absolut.
April 10, 2008 9:52 AM
This has been bothering me since I first got wind of it.

What ever happened to good old fashioned conquest?

A caveat - I am a 'Native American'.

Vini vidi vici, it is as simple as that.

Better technology and superior arms gave way to a new paradigm.

Progress is often ugly, but to desire its reversal is the ultimate denial.

Personally, I find the whole 'recapture' or 'realignment' by Mexicans specious at best.

Most are, or were 'natives' at first. Barely beyond Clovis people.

And what 'civilization' they had was a blood thirsty sacrificial amalgem of horror.

To my mind, it was they who destroyed the indigenous peoples of the northern latitudes - the Anansazi.

They came north to escape that bloody religious society and brought with them exactly that from which they fled.

They ate us. As was their rite.

I have no sympathy with those who claim Norte Americano as their birthright.

An aside.

You'll find nary an 'injun' here who will tolerate this so called nativistic claim on this land from south of the border.

Screw that.

I'll take my chances with the opportunities I have now, rather than let a bunch of self-serving beaners with an obvious agenda based on greed, envy and sour grapes dictate to me who 'owns' the glorious desert Southwest.
April 11, 2008 4:24 AM
And one more thing ...

Since one out of five Mexicans ever born resides here and Mexico's second largest source of income is from money wired back ... Mexico should consider themselves lucky we don't annex the joint.

Think about it.

Almost ten thousand miles of ocean view property just begging for some attention.

Game on.

If you'd like a bit of history, Google the situation in Mexico prior to 1920 in conjunction with large land holders from the United States.

Heasrt owned 3 million acres.

His friends owned a hundred times that.

After the 'revolucion' they were stripped of their holdings.

Imagine how much better Mexico would be if that had not happened.

I got your 'Aztlan' right here.
April 11, 2008 4:45 AM
Steel Turman: Are you drunk?
April 11, 2008 4:50 AM

Just pissed off that it's become so very easy to forget fact and ignore reality.

April 11, 2008 4:54 AM
Ok.... Not that there was very much fact in your comments.
April 11, 2008 5:24 AM
Set your phaser on 'kill' and have your browsers at the ready.

Your point?

If you have one, that is.

Dispute anything I have said.
April 11, 2008 5:33 AM

You probably won't get a lot of "return fire". A lot of people attack the Scragged writers, but most of the fact disputes don't get anywhere. With the exception of guy on the drug articles, most readers don't get the big picture. Low level attacks...
April 11, 2008 8:53 AM
gChang ...

Thank you.

I think Scragged should be all about 'fact dispute'.

But, of course, that demands the casual 'drive-by' invest more than a round or two.

I hope this site garners that.

Scragged is the perfect platform for some serious kick ass.

April 11, 2008 9:26 AM
Scrogged: why on earth have you lifted the look and feel of the New York Times website for your own?
April 15, 2008 7:15 AM
Reese, why do you care?
April 15, 2008 6:58 PM
It is a very sad ordeal that is going on with our border patrol - if thats what you want to call it. I don't know what they are patrolling but it isn't the border thats for sure. Illegal immigrants are illegal whether you like it or not, and the fact that companies, in america, are granting these illegals temporary citizenship in order to have a worker that is paid less, it is quite disheartening to me.

Obviously no education or experience is required to have these jobs, because we all know that the education system in mexico compared to, lets see, everywhere is terrible. There are americans who could use a job to even eat. All of this is bull crap. Sorry for the extreme right-winged comment, but border patrol should stop patrolling the border and start controlling the border, BY WHATEVER MEANS POSSIBLE
April 16, 2008 3:39 AM
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