Building a strong presence beyond social.

VML South Africa was originally appointed as Absolut’s digital agency in 2012, and tasked with growing the brand’s online communities in South Africa. All that changed over the past two years when a few of our project initiatives made a massive impression on both consumers and the client.

We pushed beyond digital, and lead Absolut’s creative identity out into Johannesburg with their first artist-in-residency program, which gained both local and global hype. We then devised a way to capitalize on the brand’s sponsorship of the MTV Africa Music Awards.

After taking the lead in the campaign, from strategy through cross-channel creative, Absolut named VML South Africa its full-service agency of record.

Case study

Inspiring Africans to transform today.

Absolut aligns itself with trailblazers who redefine cultural norms. It’s a bold brand that is always moving forward. As their agency of record, VML South Africa continues to make Absolut not just a digital innovator, but also a cultural leader. 

Challenge

While being an incredibly strong brand globally, Absolut was struggling to maintain its relevance in Africa. When Pernod Ricard asked VML South Africa to help "erase brand decline in local market share" for Absolut, CEO Jason Xenopoulos carefully considered the African market before making a determination.

Idea

Africa has long been considered the "dark continent." "[It's] a place of witchcraft, savagery," Xenopoulos said. "A barbarian landscape just waiting to be tamed, to be civilized -- to be saved from itself."

But he knew better. "Young Africans are tired of having global brands shoved down their throats. They're tired of being targeted by irrelevant insights. They want to be recognized for who they are, for where they come from, for what they hope to do and the places they dream to go."

Xenopoulos said many African countries are seeing a renaissance in creativity. Artists are reappropriating bits and pieces of their traditional culture into a style Xenopoulos describes as post-colonial pop. And where violence once ruled, now "revolutionaries wield creativity as their weapon."

Could VML bottle that vibe? To celebrate this renaissance, Xenopoulos and his team tapped South African hip-hop artist Khuli Chana -- to endorse him, not the other way around.

With Chana's help, VML scoured the continent for exemplary artists of every make: musicians, painters, muralists, makeup artists, choreographers and dancers.

"We asked them all to harmonize around a single idea," Xenopoulos said. "We called it 'One Source.' You see, every drop of Absolut Vodka comes from one source in Sweden. But, as Africans, as human beings, we all come from one source as well: from Africa, the birthplace of humanity, the source of all creation."

Result

The 2016 harmonization resulted in a recording of eight tracks featuring 10 African artists, a documentary series, a music video and live performances -- and a Khuli Chana signature edition bottle.

The recording, which included artists KG, Victoria Kimani, VVIP, Stonebwoy, E.L and DJ Breezy, shot to No. 1 on iTunes in Africa. The campaign achieved its goal for the client - and more - resulting in:

  • An astonishing 84% increase in sales
  • Market share that doubled
  • 1.75 billion earned media impressions

Awards & Recognition

Cannes Lions