November 22nd, 2011
03:54 PM ET
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."
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."
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