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. pat in jersey

    Nancy M.B. , no YOU are the center of the universe, right? Stop trying to teach us what's right. If someone insulted you, i'm sure you'd be the first to whine. It's not about laughing at ourselves, it's about overall sensitivity in the world, which we are losing at high speed. If we lose our sensitivity to others, we all lose. You too.

    November 23, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Nancy M. B.

      Oh, get over yourself. And while you're at it, develop a sense of humor and ditch all that P.C. crap.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  2. pat in jersey

    bullcrap! They didn't mean "understated"! Who would figure all that out?? It's meant to say what it says. Cheap Vodka! Not all tis other bs. Hey, I'm Jewish and can laugh at myself, but this is really a cheap shot.

    November 23, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • claybigsby

      sorry, Jew, but in th eUS we have freedom of speech. Dont like it? Go back to israel.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Trystan

      "Cheap" shot. heh. heh.

      November 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  3. Chuckles

    Inappropriate (but hilarious) joke time

    What happened when a jew with a bo.ner ran into a wall?

    He broke his nose!

    November 23, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  4. The One True Steve

    Where's PETA in all this ... Those dogs are wearing REAL FUR

    November 23, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Snarf

      Dog meat is usually gamy, but if you soak it in Jewish vodka and set it on fire it tastes much better. L'chaim! 🙂

      November 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  5. randoid1234

    Towing the line? Like a tugboat? The expression is "toeing the line".

    November 23, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  6. Debbie Does Vodka

    I think its hilarious. People need to put on the adult panties and quit crying about every little thing.

    November 23, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  7. Steve

    I LOL'ed. Am I going to hell? Or New Jersey?

    November 23, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Chuckles

      What's the difference?


      November 23, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • HellBent

      At least hell doesn't have Snooki (yet)

      November 23, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  8. Nancy M. B.

    Minorities are always ready to take offense. ("Raaaaacism!" "Anti-semitism!") Lighten up, people. You aren't the center of the universe - trust me on that one.

    November 23, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • EYJG

      You can feel free to shut up and show sympathy for those who may feel offended because they are of a culture or ethnicity that continues to be pervasively discriminated against. The universe revolves around you much less than it revolves around them. Trust me on that.

      November 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  9. AlMan42

    It worked. I'm going to go buy some.

    November 23, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  10. jordan

    @Charles Trust me this stereotype is far from true. The notion of this stereotype originated during the French Revolution, the Jews were the bankers in Paris and when the nobility lost their property and asked for loans from the bank the banks denied them because they knew they couldn't pay them back. This sign is ridiculous obviously and the creator knew he would get a rise out of everyone.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • claybigsby

      stereotypes are there for a reason...i know plenty of jewish people who are so cheap its scary.

      November 23, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Howard

      Even though claybigsby is an antisemite, it doesn't mean that all non Jews are. I know plenty of people who ar Jewish and plenty of people who are not Jewish. None on eitehr side islike claybigsby.

      November 23, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • claybigsby

      lol so because i know a bunch cheap jewish people im an antisemite? bhahahahahahahaha real world experiences fool.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • claybigsby

      So me where I have dis...crim....inated against jews? Before the mud slinging, howard, i would suggest you understand the definitions of the words your so frivolously throw around.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  11. Boo

    The ADL should lighten up. Since the creative lead is Jewish his ad could conceivably represent (1) an expression of his self-hatred or (2) an attempt to be funny using self deprecation. In my mind, the latter is the most likely case. That said, I am pleased that there are apparently no complaints about the blatant use of a Taco Bell chihauhau sporting gang colors. Don't let the santa hat fool you; look at the eyes.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Chuckles

      Well, to be fair, it's sort of the ADL's job to fight ads exactly like this, regardless of the creator. I agree that the adman being jewish actually makes it more funny and less anti-semitic, however how are you supposed to communicate that on a billboard? Underneath should you write, "Ad created by Issac Bin Jacob Goldenblattsteinberg"? This guy probably should have known better but whatever, in the long run this thing is probably already forgotten by most.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  12. Melanie

    Offensive or not, putting the billboard up was STUPID. The fact that Wodka thought they could get away with it is just ridiculous. They deserve to fail.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Charles

      Lighten up, chicken little. It's funny. If it read Beverly Hills quality at Alabama trailer park prices, would you be up in arms? Stereotypes are funny becuase they're generally true. If there were no truth, no one would say a word.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  13. 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.

    November 23, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  14. dog

    So what kind of dogs were in the ad

    November 23, 2011 at 6:27 am |
    • Andrea

      The picture shows the dogs, can't you see it?

      November 23, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • heresy

      Afghan Hound is representing the jewish faith and what looks like a mutt representing the christians. a pure bred dog for one and a mutt for the other....

      November 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  15. Christian

    Are you kidding??? It's a great sales pitch/joke and any old-timer New York Yiddish comedian would tell you so!!! The problem today is that EVERYBODY finds ANY excuse to get their nose out of joint. You fundamentalist Bible-thumpers DO remember that Jesus was a devout, practicing Jew, just like his parents, Mary and Joseph, don't you (think of Jesus as the Martin Luther of his time!)? And evidently some Reformed Jews need to listen to more Yiddish humor!

    Happy Hannukah...and Merry Christmas!

    November 23, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  16. Jess

    I wish Americans were as demanding of immediate change in the state of the economy and of the non-existant progress in DC. If Jews and Christians came together and were as passionate about finding out why their government has still done nothing to compensate for unemployment rates and sky-rocketing costs of higher education among the many other issues we are all being faced with. As a full-time college student at a public university who is working full-time to
    pay for school and will still graduate with a substantial amount of debt and no guarentee of a job, I find it kind of disturbing that Americans are putting so much effort into calling up an company about a billboard for change when there is a HUGE need for it in the US Government. Just some food for thought 🙂

    November 23, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  17. Deist 1#

    nice try rich People But we will not put Our money into drinking or Gambling In these tough times like the Eighties or Nineties. (We Are Slightly More Smarter Now.)

    November 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • The Grammar Police

      "Slightly more (sic) smarter..." Perhaps, but just slightly. Put your money down on a good grammar book. Then read it. That's your best bet right now.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I reckon you gots more gooder grammar then I done has.

      November 23, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  18. GoToCollegeGetDrunkEatChickenFingers



    Now, if this person had prayed for better vision, god's answer would be the following:


    November 22, 2011 at 11:11 pm |


    November 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • GoToCollegeGetDrunkEatChickenFingers

      Joining in peace usually involves alcohol.

      November 22, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Arch

      Caps lock, chief, caps lock.

      November 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  20. Typical Religious Filth and Trash

    Leave it to the religious to be predictably OFFENDED over anything you can possibly imagine. Just in time for the holidays. I'd like to see them roasted over an open fire, with some chestnuts. Bunch of lousy idiots. Keep spreading that holiday cheer, you worthless cry-baby believers.

    November 22, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • p300

      I am Offended by you insinuating that I am predictably offended. At this time I Demand you remove this Offensive post

      November 23, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • driving by

      Next you'll be saying, "You mock me?" ha ha ha ha!

      November 23, 2011 at 5:33 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.