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. Ter

    Did this head of marketing really think Jews wouldn't be offended? Seriously? They come up with this campaign and think, "Yeah. Go with it. No one will be offended" What an ass. My 11-year-old knows that's offensive...

    November 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • heresy

      so they are very sensitive too? and think that everything they read / hear or see is directed toward them? THEY ARE WORDS. they CANNOT hurt you. a rock/stick/gun/knife can hurt you WORDS cannot. teach your kid that and they'll do better in life.

      November 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • michael

      lol this idiot actually believes that words can't hurt you...Maybe not physically, but words do hurt, and they damage the pride of a people that has outlasted thousands of years of oppression. Maybe you're lucky enough not to have been oppressed but the Jewish people aren't and I feel bad for you if you don't realize that there is something seriously wrong with people thinking all jews are frugal and cheap... who are you to stereotype a whole religion/culture?

      November 26, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  2. TheRationale

    So this vodka billboard is in.....bad taste? ahahaha oh god...

    November 22, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • hippypoet

      nice joke, i myself love puns... but heres a tip for better vodka and more money in your pocket.....buy the cheap vodka and then put it thru a brita filter... it will make top shelf vodka...granted the brita filter is dead, but who cares – you just bought cheap hobo vodka that is now top of the tops for like 6 bucks!

      November 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  3. OrangeW3dge

    OK, yeah, let's all try to say something "serious" and "grown up" here. I agree, that is one tacky ad. But sarcasm in advertising? How very blasphemous...

    November 22, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  4. theoldadam

    I'm offended by the offense.

    November 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  5. AGuest9

    They used dogs on the billboard. Someone call the ASPCA, I've been offended!!!

    November 22, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  6. oox

    Who should be the most offended? Here we have a jewish owned company pandering to non jewish (by the tone of the ad) small minded people who drink cheap booze. And then the ADL throwing a hissy fit over a jew making a joke at jews to give this company even more publicity for free, what was the quote: "There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary".

    Well done in making this cheap company even more money with all the free advertising they're getting but maybe that was the intention all along by either or both parties 😉

    November 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  7. The Bobinator

    Perhaps the anti-defamation league should get a sense of humour. Racist humour will be around for the forseeable future because it's funny and socially risky. That's the charm of it.

    The time it stops being funny is when someone thinks that the comment is real. And if people are going to take a dog advertisement seriously, they should also take Mel Brooks films seriously too and prevent the horrible stereotypes in those as well.

    November 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • inna

      The line between joke and truth is very thin. listen to the "joke" enough times, and you start accepting it for the truth. Iits not a silly poster, or joke, its a crack at peoples beliefs.

      November 22, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Arenaboi

      Oh whatever it's a common stereotype, and as someone that was a restaurant manager for a few years when I was young, pretty accurate. People cry about everything today. Do you know how many personally offensive things I hear a day that I could care less about? Stereotypes come from somewhere or else they would not be stereotypes. The add is funny, get over it, the more attention you call to the stereotype, the more people believe it if you ask me.

      November 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > The line between joke and truth is very thin. listen to the "joke" enough times, and you start accepting it for the truth.

      Only if you're a moron.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  8. Archer

    Of all the things to pick a fight about, I would personally let the religious-dog sponsored vodka slip by. If you get angry about this, then pat yourself on the back, because obviously you're doing so well in life that you have the time / energy to take issue with any ridiculous thing that passes in front of your nose. Happy KwanaHanuMas Everybody!

    November 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  9. Charlie_In_VA

    How did this one slip by the company's legal review? Why not just call it "Scarlett quality, Mammie pricing?" I absolutely can't stand political correctness, but COME ON ... do we really need to be playing up stereotypes in this day and age? We should be above this by now.

    November 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  10. Fudge

    The sad part of all this is that the Wodka brand will profit off this outrage.
    And it blows my mind that some people, even other Jews, don't understand why the "Jews are cheap with money" stereotype is deeply offensive. There is a sad history behind it, but it's easier to just point and laugh than understand why something is unacceptable.

    November 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • William Demuth

      What is so offensive about it?

      I have learned more from working with Jewish organizations about how to provide for my family than I learned in 15 years of school.

      I guess it is offensive to those who are poor, but I embrace the concept every day, and my family are far the better for it.

      Perhaps the excess of Christians make them self-conscious, but the frugality of Jews is a blessing!

      November 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Fudge

      Read 'Making Sense of Jewish Stereotypes', by Jeffrey Singer from The Future of Freedom website, if you truly want to know why I find it so offensive. It's an informative article that tells the history better than I can type out here.

      November 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Chayim Putin my comment

      Maybe they are offended because it's an accurate stereotype. Some of them are, you know. Oy, my back!

      November 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  11. William Demuth

    I had a Jewish boss for many years (La Chaim Alan!) that always said Hanukah was the celebration of Christmas receipts.

    It seems apparent that secular members of faiths seem to have MUCH better senses of humor!

    November 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  12. Arelem

    I don't get how "Hanukkah pricing" denotes something cheap. Most all Hanukkah food and treats I see, especially if they are kosher, cost about twice as much other food.

    November 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Ed

      think Jewish stereo type not Hanukkah specificlly

      November 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Sail Ho

      I think you're right, Arelem.
      Holiday pricing is always higher than regular pricing, as the merchant wants a bit of extra, but some items will have lower pricing because of volume production in China or something.
      It depends on the item, the greed of the merchant who is just charging what they think they can get away with.
      Not many people seem to be pointing out that "Christmas" quality can be LOW and "Hannukah" pricing can be HIGH.

      This is regardless of stereotype, so their complaints don't have any basis in fact. They are just beating their chests and whining without a very good reason to do so.

      I say the Anti-Defamation League is a pathetic organization that has no self-control. They might as well be terrorists for all the good they do.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What's offensive is that the language implies that Jews are cheap.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • DrogueShoot

      And you have thousands of Jews agreeing with that "stereotype". Argue with them if you will.

      November 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "What's offensive is that the language implies that Jews are cheap."

      Yeah, cuz Jews are cheap.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  13. Chuckles

    honestly...... this might be the victim of being "too" politically correct. At first glance it was slightly offensive, but hey, a jewish guy made the joke, this isn't the only one with the same type of comparison.... I mean, he might have been a little more sensitive but all in all it seems like an over reaction. I mean honestly, Hannukah is a sh.it holiday anyways, who the hel.l cares if its relegated to "understated", I mean, it's a pointless holiday that was only brought out of the wordworks in the first place to "compete" with christmas,

    November 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      To me this is far less offensive than Jewish people singing Christmas Carols.

      Not sure why, but that seems to be wrong on so many levels and I am not even Christian.

      I guess its like the crucifix's made by Chinese slave labor they sell at the San Genaro festival in New York. It freaks me every time I see it.

      November 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Chuckles


      The best is, most of the most beloved christmas carols of today were written by jews.

      November 22, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Could you even IMAGINE a Christian country artist singing a Jewish song?

      They would be burnt at the stake.

      November 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Chuckles

      or crucified, depending on mood of the jewish shadow government. I mean, they don't call it jewish humor for nothin!

      November 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  14. Snow

    Why is this offensive? Were the dogs wearing the hats offensive? Do you mean you do not allow animals in your religion? God made them, didn't he?

    Or is it "Christmas quality"? You want bad quality goods for Christmas?

    Or the "Hanukkah Pricing"? you want to expend all your savings in a single day??

    What of it is offensive?? really..

    November 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Ed

      @Snow, Ok I agree people over reacted. However it is offensive. because it implies Christmas is of higher value then Hanukkah it also uses the stereo type that Jews are cheap. Either way I can see why a Jewish person would be offended. Also FYO Hanukkah is 8 days not 1

      November 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Any good Jewish buisness men will tell you value is NOT price.

      1-(Price / Worth) is value.

      Perhaps thats why we sterotype them? We goyim hate to be beaten at our own game capitalisim!

      November 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Ed

      I'm familar with importance of value. I can still see why a Jewish person could take offense at the ad

      November 22, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  15. Doc Vestibule

    Stereotypes are useful.
    They save time by imparting all the information you need to be bigoted without the onus of real knowledge.
    Jewish folk are cheap, Christians are all sheep, Atheists are creeps, Muslims spew deceit... dang. I can't think of any more rhyming racism.

    November 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I am curious Doc

      Do you believe they are fabrications?

      Do you think culture is what decides a sterotype from a reasonable observation?

      I recall my grandmother (an Irish woman born in the 1800s) objected to her daughter marrying a German, because she said that although they were nice enough people, they enjoyed war to much.

      I use this because it was far enough in the past to offend most readers.

      I believe that sterotype was based on an obvious reality, and served a significant purpose.

      Would you agree?

      November 22, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  16. 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.


    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.

    "John P. Meier – Professor at Notre Dame

    Meier [Marginal Jew I,216-219] notes that the "affirmation of Jesus' descent from David might easily be placed alongside his birth at Bethlehem as a theologoumenon (a theological insight narrated as a historical event) if it were not for the fact that numerous and diverse streams of NT tradition also affirm Jesus' Davidic lineage."

    "Meier suggests that the belief that Jesus was "son of David" may have been held by Jesus' followers prior to his death, with his resurrection then being understood as a form of enthronement. However, he notes that such messianic views, whatever their provenance, cannot prove Jesus was "literally, biologically of Davidic stock."


    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.


    "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.

    Rabbi Wolpe can probably give us his take on the historical validity of Hanukkah.

    November 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  17. hippypoet

    ok people, buy the cheap vodka and then put it thru a brita filter... it will make top shelf vodka...granted the brita filter is dead, but who cares – you just bought cheap hobo vodka that is now top of the tops for like 6 bucks!

    November 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Go AWOL. (Google for more!)

      Vaporization of alcohol, so you can inhale it. Works a charm!

      November 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  18. William Demuth


    The best humour ALWAYS angers those in power.

    If the truth hurts, perhaps it is YOU out of step, and not those offering the observation.

    November 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  19. Ed

    I could use some quality Vodka at a cheap price although I agree the billboard was in poor taste

    November 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  20. patcee

    It seems to me that people use every little opportunity to cause a ruckus today. This is an ad for vodka. How can it become such a big thing to so many? I for one have a lot of other things to worry about than a silly vodka ad that will do nothing to change my mind about either holiday or either religion. I think everyone should take a moment and calm down. You can't afford to get outraged about everything that comes along. Save it for bigger things.

    November 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
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