An infamous history helped to guarantee the successful
reintroduction of absinthe on to the UK market, says Wilfred
Emmanuel-Jones, managing director of Communications Plus.
Absinthe. Surely the marketer’s and PR’s dream? A drink banned from
Europe and the US for its feared hallucinatory effects; a drink with a
history peppered with names and events marked in recent history (how
many products can boast as part of its heritage a hand in inspiring Van
Gogh to cut off his ear?); a drink that, thanks to a legal loophole was
imported into the UK just in time for the Christmas drinking season and
in good time to ensure awareness and distribution for the millennium; a
drink with an alcohol level and track record that could not fail to
attract the attention of the anti-alcohol lobby? Could the
reintroduction of absinthe fail to cause a stir?
For me, the effectiveness of a campaign can be measured in how the
results affect or influence me personally. As a PR professional
specialising in food and drink PR, I could not fail to be aware of the
growing ground swell of interest in this apparently lethal, emerald
green liquid. I knew the campaign had hit home when at a leisurely lunch
at a local bar I was tempted to try this fiery liquor. Not only does
absinthe come with a fabulous history, its preparation certainly adds to
A simple shot in a glass-not on your life. A single measure is poured
into a cocktail glass. A teaspoon full of sugar laid across the rim and
set alight and then the molten sugar poured seductively into the green
liquid leaving a residual flame flickering around the rim. A splash of
water to extinguish the flame and the glass was offered to me. One sip
was enough to make my decision.
In terms of raised awareness of absinthe, its mystique, its history and,
of course, its availability, this campaign is without doubt a
The media coverage was the kind you’d die for - prime time TV and long
features in the nationals.
But true effectiveness, I believe, is in getting people to try absinthe
and from that moment convert the drinker to a loyal and regular
Now there’s the rub. Call me old fashioned, but for me once was
But for those at the coal face of all that is stylish, cool and now,
absinthe may well be a dream come true and as a result drink copious
quantities on a regular basis.
Whatever, I doubt that many people will enter the year 2000 without
having heard of, seen or tasted absinthe. Successful or what?