Anti-Illegal Immigration Group Calls for 'Absolut' Vodka Boycott

An anti-illegal immigration group issued a call to arms Tuesday against a prominent Swedish vodka brand.

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC President William Gheen is in a tizzy over an Absolut vodka advertisement that ran recently in Mexico. While it is no longer running, he says it shows the alcohol manufacturer is peddling products to a group of people actively seeking to claim U.S. territory in the name of Mexico.

The ad showed an 1830s map of Mexico and the United States where most of the modern western United States was still part of Mexico. The ad headline was "In an Absolut World."

Absolut officials say they had no intent to make any immigration-related message with the ad, and have since issued an apology.

Gheen's group is calling for a boycott of the product until Absolut fires the ad agency.

"On the one hand, we are boycotting Absolut. On the other hand, we want to thank them for getting caught" placing such an outrageous ad, Gheen said.

"We have a growing uprising here in America," Gheen said, warning that Mexicans and other illegal immigrants are trying to take over the southern U.S. — an area Gheen said is not too different from the map used in the Absolut ad.

Absolut Spirits Co. spokesman Jeffrey Moran said the company does not plan to fire any advertising agencies or employees in the matter.

"Where we stand now is we are firm in our apology. The situation is not one that is positive for us as a company who has been so active in our marking over the years. And we issued a sincere apology," Moran said, speaking to by phone from France. He added: "We are truly sorry. ... There was no ulterior motive behind that ad."

Moran said the global ad campaign has generally played on comedic juxtaposition between something real and something obviously not possible. One ad that ran in New York City showed roller-coaster handle bars inside a taxi cab; another featured a pregnant man. An ad that ran in France showed a city street clogged with bicyclists, except for a single car lane.

"Most of these have a little 'a-ha' moment," Moran said. But Absolut found itself trying to explain the joke to American audiences with the ad that ran in Mexico.

On the company's Web site, commentary on the ad has so far reached 230 pages and counting. "This is the first time we've experienced this reaction at all. So I don't really even have a gauge" to compare it with, Moran said.

In the apology issued Sunday, Absolut said: "We acknowledge the reactions and debate and want to apologize for the concerns this ad caused. We are truly sorry and understand that the ad has offended several persons. This was not our intention.

"In no way was the ad meant to offend or disparage, or advocate an altering of borders, lend support to any anti-American sentiment or to reflect immigration issues."

Moran said that the company also has made internal changes to make sure ads developed in one market don't offend consumers in another market.

Vin & Sprit, Absolut's Sweden-based parent company, will be acquired by French spirit maker Pernod Ricard SA under a deal reached last week, according to The Associated Press.

Moran said he was not aware that any problems over the ad had affected the sale to Pernod Ricard.

Gheen said about 100 organizations are part of his boycott organization, the National Illegal Immigration Boycott Coalition, and some of those groups boast thousands of members.

While success "is hard to measure," Gheen cites a recent boycott of Bank of America over business practices targeting illegal immigrants. He said somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 people have signed onto a petition in the ongoing boycott, which he claims denied the bank new customer accounts and other bank business.

"Is this enough to ruin their stock and bring the bank down? No," Gheen said, "but it is enough to cost them."