MEXICO CITY – The Absolut vodka company apologized Saturday for an ad campaign depicting the southwestern U.S. as part of Mexico amid angry calls for a boycott by U.S. consumers.
The campaign, which promotes ideal scenarios under the slogan "In an Absolut World," showed a 1830s-era map when Mexico included California, Texas and other southwestern states. Mexico still resents losing that territory in the 1848 Mexican-American War and the fight for Texas independence.
But the ads, which ran only in Mexico and have since ended, came as the United States builds up its border security amid an emotional debate over illegal immigration from their southern neighbor.
More than a dozen calls to boycott Absolut were posted on michellemalkin.com, a Web site operated by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. The ads sparked heated comment on a half-dozen other Internet sites and blogs.
"In no way was it meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues," Absolut said in a statement left on its consumer inquiry phone line.
Some fringe U.S. groups also claim the land is rightfully part of Mexico, while extreme immigration foes argue parts of the U.S. already are being overtaken by Mexico.
"In an Absolut world, a company that produces vodka fires its entire marketing department in a desperate attempt to win back enraged North American customers after a disastrous ad campaign backfires," a person using the moniker "SalsaNChips" wrote on Malkin's Web site.
A plan for comprehensive immigration reform designed to deal with an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States — the vast majority from Mexico — collapsed last summer under the emotional weight of the debate.
Absolut said the ad was designed for a Mexican audience and intended to recall "a time which the population of Mexico might feel was more ideal."
"As a global company, we recognize that people in different parts of the world may lend different perspectives or interpret our ads in a different way than was intended in that market, and for that we apologize."
Vin & Sprit, Absolut's Sweden-based parent company, will be acquired by French spirit maker Pernod Ricard SA under a deal reached last week.