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30 Years of Absolut Ads Targeting the Gay Community

Absolut, the Swedish vodka brand known for its iconic bottle advertising, is marking 30 years of ads targeting the gay community with -- what else? -- a series of ads. The $4 million buy will include this new execution, (pictured) Absolut Outrageous.

It still makes headlines when mainstream advertisers address the gay and lesbian community in ads, especially in mainstream media. Anti-gay protestors recently protested Target for advertising during Degrassi, a drama that has featured several gay storylines, on the Nick Teen channel. And the Kansas City Star believed it was worthy of a story when local jeweler Tivol & Tomorrows ran a print and billboard campaign showing two men admiring a wedding ring.

It's unremarkable stuff in this day and age, to be sure. But it was a brave move back in 1981 when Absolut, then a relatively unknown brand, first ran ads in The Advocate and After Dark, two magazines read by gay men. The Pernod Ricard brand (and its ad agency, TBWA Worldwide) is rather more in-your-face about things now: In 2008 it ran a PR campaign around the theme, "In an ABSOLUT World All Men Are Created 'Equal' and Gay Marriage Is a Celebrated Reality."

Here are 10 more Absolut ads that you may, or may not, have known were part of the gay vodka agenda.

Begin gallery of 30 years of Absolut's gay ads»

1. Au Kurant

This ad ran in the mainstream press from 1997 onwards but straights might not have noticed the coding: The lacing is purple and the sex of the person wearing the corset is unclear. Unsurprisingly, it also ran in the gay press, where its nuances were interpreted differently.


2. 8 incher

Size queens, rejoice. No subtlety here.



Absolut has sponsored the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation media awards since 1989. This ad was published in 2000.


4. Haring

From 1995, another example of Absolut's mastery of double-coding. Artist Keith Haring was popular with everyone but the gay community was more likely to celebrate his sexuality.


5. Marry Me

2008: No prizes for guessing what this is about.


6. Achievement

2003: The film canisters include the names of famous gay movies. This ad was created for film festival sponsorships.


7. No labels

2009: A return to subtlety. Everyone can relate to the "no labels" idea. The only clue as to who this ad is aimed at is the rainbow icon in the corner.


8. Pregnant man

2008: This ad ran in women's magazines. Again, it's double-coded. Is this just a joke about what it would be like if men were the ones who had to carry children? Or is this, as some noticed, a transgender relationship?


9. Pride

2009: Absolut saluted 40 years of Gay Pride marches with a rainbow bottle.


10. Cut

This ad ran in mainstream media in foreign countries. Again, there are two ways to enjoy this ad, by laughing at the clueless mother or by empathizing with the duplicitous son.

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