A photograph purportedly showing a snarky advertisement for Smirnoff brand vodka featuring an apparent dig at President Trump in its tagline that “We’d be happy to talk about our ties to Russia under oath” was recirculated on social media in December 2018.
That photograph first popped up online when it was posted to Twitter by Kate Kosturski in June 2017. At that time, the U.S. news media were speculating over whether or not President Trump would testify under oath about his alleged ties to Russia:
That’s a good burn there, Smirnoff. pic.twitter.com/6fJ4Wfl7Xe
— Kate (@librarian_kate) June 10, 2017
Twitter user Ida Bae Wells shared a photograph of another Smirnoff advertisement featuring the same slogan:
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) June 12, 2017
These photographs do capture genuine advertisements for Smirnoff vodka, produced by the creative agency 72andSunny in the summer of 2017.
Although this Trump-inspired campaign may have not sat well with some consumers, Mark Sandys, the Global Head of Beer, Baileys and Smirnoff at Diageo (Smirnoff’s parent company), asserted that the overall response to the promotion was positive:
While other brands have taken some heat for going after Trump, Smirnoff got strong support, with an 86% positive to 14% negative rating, according to the brand’s research, Diageo executives said in an interview at Cannes. “That’s way more positive than the response that we get for some of our LGBT work,” said Mark Sandys, who oversees Smirnoff. “I think that says two things: Firstly how important it is to be doing LGBT work, and second that the threat level of the risk that we are taking on the America-Russia campaign is actually an acceptable risk to take.”
Diageo global CMO Syl Saller opined that the advertisement probably worked as well as it did because it was just as much about Smirnoff as it was about President Trump:
When tackling hot-button issues in marketing, “it has to be true to the brand,” Saller said. “If you are riding a wave of a topic and you have no right to comment on that topic you are going to lose. Because people smell when it is not true to the brand.”
While Smirnoff had some trepidation about the Trump ads, it pressed forward because executives were confident it used the right tone. And “it’s true about Smirnoff — it is a Russian brand made in America,” Sandys said.