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Vodka ad boasting 'Christmas quality' at 'Hanukkah pricing' to come down amid complaints
A spokesman for Wodka Vodka says this ad on New York's West Side Highway will come down Wednesday.
November 22nd, 2011
03:54 PM ET

Vodka ad boasting 'Christmas quality' at 'Hanukkah pricing' to come down amid complaints

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) - A vodka brand that claimed to represent "Christmas quality" at "Hanukkah pricing" will take down a New York billboard carrying the controversial slogan in response to complaints that the sign is offensive and promotes negative stereotypes.

The sales pitch for Wódka vodka also features the image of two dogs, one wearing a Santa hat, the other wearing a yarmulke, prompting outcry from the Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights anti-Semitism.

"In a crude and offensive way of trying to make a point that their vodka is high quality and inexpensive, the billboards evoke a Jewish holiday to imply something that is cheap and of lesser value when compared to the higher value of a Christian holiday," said Ron Meier, the ADL's New York Regional Director, in a press release.

"Particularly with the long history of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money, with the age-old notion that Jews are cheap, to use the Jewish holiday in dealing with issues of money is clearly insensitive and inappropriate," the release said.

Negative feedback from consumers, not the ADL, led to Tuesday"s decision to take down the billboard, which appears in a prominent location on New York City's West Side Highway, said Brian Gordon, the creative lead on the campaign, who is Jewish. The sign will come down Wednesday.

"It's important that people understand where we're coming from because we never intended to offend people," Godon said in a phone interview. "But if we’re actually offending or upsetting people that’s not in the spirit of our marketing so we're taking it down."

The vodka company is known for towing the line between campy and controversial in its marketing, with past ads boasting "Hamptons Quality. Newark Pricing" and "Escort Quality. Hooker Pricing."

At least two complaints to the ADL referenced  Wódka's past marketing slogans and charged that the ads played off the stereotype that "Jews are cheap or will cheat you," according to an e-mail the ADL shared with CNN.

But people who saw the ad that way missed the point, Gordon said.

The point of the campaign was to liken the brand to Hanukkah as the "understated" holiday of the season, he said. While other premium vodkas come in fancy packaging, frosted bottles and incorporate pomp and circumstance in their marketing, Wódka vodka offers equal quality "with less pomp and circumstance," Gordon said.

"As a Jew growing up, the only thing we could say was we had 8 nights and Christmas had only day, so we had 8 days for the price of one," Gordon explained by phone from Los Angeles, where he said he was attending his niece's bat mitzvah.

"With our brand, our message is you can get more for less, 8 nights versus 1, and we don't need to wrap ourselves in fancy packaging," he said. "Other brands have fancy marketing but we don't need that because that's not an indication of great quality."

- egrinberg

Filed under: Christianity • Christmas • Judaism

soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. Kate

    Yeah, I'm normally pretty sensitive about antisemitism, but this is funny. Sad that they took it down. I don't know any Jews who wouldn't find this amusing. Also, as a side note, I love the dogs wearing hats. .

    December 7, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  2. Pliny

    I think that saying 'all Palestinians are terrorists' is promoting a stereotype.

    But it's a mantra to the jews.

    November 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Joe

      No it's not.

      December 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Joe

      BTW...any time you start talking about "The Jews", "The blacks", etc you're probably being racist.

      December 5, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  3. If the shoe fits

    I love my many Jewish friends but sorry-the stereotype is so for a reason. Since they all say it before I do, does that make it okay?

    November 28, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Josh

      Sorry. You the real is issue is that you are too stupid to understand stereotypes. Please go educate yourself or always wear a condom. Thx.

      November 29, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Steven

      There's at least a little bit of truth in every stereotype. People who deny that are clueless and feel that at one time, a bunch of mean, old, rich, fat white men sat around a big table with sacks of their money with $ sings on them, smoking cigars and assigned stereotypes to different sorts of people. They are the PC-militants and a joke.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • deathwombat

      Actually, there's not very much truth to this stereotype. The stereotype originated in the Middle Ages, when Christians believed that it was immoral to charge interest on loans. Jews had no such moral objection to interest, so they were regarded as greedy and cheap. "You should just lend me the money and I should be able to pay you back the same amount that I borrowed!"

      After the Reformation, new ideas made their way into Christian culture, including the idea that it was not sinful or immoral to make money. Both Christians and Jews have been charging interest on loans for centuries now, but the stereotype remains. Old stereotypes die hard. They are carried from generation to generation by ignorance. Now you know better.

      December 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  4. Tree

    Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi -Matthew 26:25, Mark 9:5, John 20:16, etc...
    Jesus celebrated Hanukkah in Jerusalem -John 10:22

    November 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  5. J`

    When I saw this billboard, I laughed. When I repeated the billboard to my (much more sensitive to anti-semitism) mother, she laughed. I am surprised there was actually a consumer backlash, as opposed to a backlash by professionally offended groups like the ADL. If anything, I would expect a consumer backlash to be a backlash by Christians, offended at the idea that they buy things at inflated prices because they fall for marketing hype.

    November 27, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  6. Dog lover

    An insult to both of those nice dogs

    November 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  7. hernape

    either way, the Jewish folks get the free press...and are the victims while diminishing Christmas....again..you gotta love the tact!

    November 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Joe

      Please, tell us all more about how "the Jews" are diminishing Christmas. This should be good.

      December 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  8. PonderItYourself

    @ThinkItYourself quoted Psalm 14:1:

    "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; There is none that doeth good."

    You replied:

    "Go tell that to Bill Gates. Perhaps you thinking that striving to end world hunger is an abomination."

    Until you quote Bill Gates saying "There is no God", you are presumed lying and should not be takin seriously.

    FYI..Bill Gates is rather agnostic than atheist. While you... you must be an atheist, a TYPICAL one.

    November 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • PonderItYourself

      "Enoch quoted Psalm 14:1, rather.

      November 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  9. Reality

    Much to do about nothing!!

    To wit:

    Christmas, the embellished story of the birth of a simple, preacher man named Jesus.

    As per most contemporary NT exegetes, his parents were Mary and Joseph although some say Jesus was a m-amzer, the result of a pre-mar-tal relationship between Mary and a Roman soldier.

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

    Jesus was not born in Bethlehem at least the one we are familiar with and there were no pretty wingie thingies singing from on high, no slaughter of the innocents by Herod, no visiting wise men and no escape to Egypt.

    See also: http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=007_Of_Davids_Lineage

    Conclusion: the holyday of Christmas is historically a non-event. Ditto for the Feast of the Magi and the solemnity of Mary aka New Years day.

    Kwanza

    "Kwanzaa, which will be celebrated for the 44th time in 2009, was established by Dr. Maulana Karenga. The seven-day festival (December 26 – January 1) is secular, not religious, and aims to strengthen African cultural ident-ity and community values while providing a spiritual alternative to the commercialism of Christmas."

    Chanukah (Hanukkah)

    "Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most joyous times of the Jewish year. The reason for the celebration is twofold (both dating back to c. 165 BCE): the miraculous military victory of the small, ill-equipped Jewish army over the ruling Greek Syrians, who had banned the Jewish religion and desecrated the Temple; and the miracle of the small cruse of consecrated oil, which burned for eight days in the Temple's menorah instead of just one."

    "Originally a minor holiday, it has become more lavishly celebrated as a result of its proximity to Christmas."
    Some candles burn for weeks so the menorah "miracle" is hardly miraculous.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    November 26, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  10. Bob

    No properly functioning, sober mind can buy into the Christian supersti-tions. Hence the need for drugs such as alcohol, and slick salesperson preachers, to prop up the delusion and keep the money flowing in to support the god frauds and their churches.

    November 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • dave

      why are atheists so angry an close minded?

      we accept your apology for Stalin and Mao

      November 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  11. EYJG

    Whether you believe Hanukkah has any value, whether you celebrate Christmas – these things are immaterial. What is unmistakable is that in this ad, a vodka company is portraying religious, ethnic, and social followers of a Jew who tried to teach people how to live in peaceful community as canines too cheap to buy regularly-priced vodka. If you can't understand why people might be offended, then at least have the dignity to not show how ignorant you are by the comments you make.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Libido

      Oh please. This was a campaign created by a Jewish guy with local Jewish consumers in NYC in mind. The slogan would be funny as a Seinfeld-esque party joke, but it's apparently not funny enough to the PC police for it to be permitted as a marketing tool.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.