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Smirnoff Gets Timely with “Don’t Drink and Debate” Campaign
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For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York, NY
Sunday, November 1, 2020


Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

It’s no secret that political debates can get testy these days. And fast. The meme “that escalated quickly” is winding up on a lot of social media comment threads early and often as people who might be a little bit worked up or, perhaps, a bit “under the influence” jump on and have their say. Most of the time, this doesn’t go well, devolving into shouting matches that help no one, and leave everyone feeling irritated and frustrated. 

But don’t worry, says Smirnoff, we’re here to help. The vodka brand has come out with a timely digital PR campaign asking folks not to “drink and debate” during this political season. The commercial opens with the obvious truism: “There are a lot of issues worth debating,” before adding, “please don’t drink and debate politics.”

The spot features celebrities, including Dave Bautista, Diane Guerrero, Lavern Cox, and Megan Rapinoe. They break down the advice, which includes the “meta” commentary, “Don’t drink and debate the debates…” which is advice that seems to have resonated with fans of the ad spot. And then they turn up the snark, with soccer star Rapinoe reminding people not to drink and bring up “gerrymandering,” to which wrestler-turned-actor Bautista says, “Who’s Jerry?”

But perhaps the best line in the short commercial is the oblique inclusion of the brand in question, with the line: “If there’s anything Smirnoff knows for sure, don’t ever drink and bring up Russia.” The winking tip of the hat to Smirnoff’s Russian roots is all the overt product discussion there is in the commercial, and it plays well.

All-in-all it’s a fun take on a tough topic, and the commercial manages to pull that off without downplaying or minimizing the need for people to engage in the political process. The spot even shoe-horns in an allusion to the trend over the past few years for alcoholic beverage brands to encourage people “not to drink” or “drink responsibly,” as the VO character says, “Just drink water instead…”

Smirnoff stays true to its brand character as a fun and hip beverage of choice for any occasion while successfully reminding people of the potentially funny but probably unappealing consequences of enjoying their beverages before or during a political conversation. Take politics seriously, the ad suggests, and save time for fun.

This is a good place for the Smirnoff brand to position itself while dipping a toe into the potentially “shark-infested” waters of politics. Brands need to be careful as they take this gambit. Be seen as taking things too lightly, and people might be offended. Be seen as taking sides, and a brand that wants to court everyone will find their potential consumer base cut in half, or worse. With this spot, Smirnoff manages to navigate the waters in a way that makes people laugh as they are reminded to take politics seriously.

About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.

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