Bensimon Byrne lands U.S. vodka account

Chris Powell June 04, 2012

The drinks are on Bensimon Byrne. The Toronto independent agency has been awarded the U.S. digital/social business for Swedish vodka brand Svedka Vodka following a competitive review with four other mid-size and boutique digital agencies.

The Svedka Fembot

It was the largest new business pitch for Bensimon Byrne since it acquired digital agency OneMethod earlier this year. The February acquisition, said agency president Jack Bensimon, not only doubled Bensimon Bryne’s capabilities on the digital front, but also enabled the agency to showcase some “fabulous ideas” during the pitch process.

At the time of the OneMethod purchase, Bensimon said that the shop’s unique selling proposition is its devotion to “what’s next” in advertising. Svedka, whose slogan is “Voted #1 vodka of 2033” is a perfect example of a client seeking forward-thinking marketing, he said.

“Svedka is a perfect example of a brand that needs all of the great strategic planning skills that we’ve got and all of the processes and the production capabilities, but they also need to have a willingness to experiment,” said Bensimon. “It’s completely future forward and exactly the kind of brand OneMethod is suited for.”

Svedka is the third U.S.-only beverage alcohol assignment that Constellation Brands has awarded the agency this year, following on the heels of wine brands Simply Naked and newcomer Thorny Rose.

“We’re developing a fairly significant relationship with them south of the border,” said Bensimon, whose agency has extensive experience in the category dating back to its iconic work with Molson and more recently with Ontario winemakers such as Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin. “But we still had to go in and absolutely blow their socks off, because we were up against some really good U.S. shops.”

“The clear, strategic and creative vision that Bensimon Bryne brought to the table was second to none,” said Diana Pawlik, vice-president of marketing for Svedka in a release. “They have set the bar high and we look to working together to bring their ideas to life.”

Bensimon said that digital and social are among the key marketing avenues for the Svedka brand. “It’s a young targeted category, so digital and social media are critical tools for reaching that audience,” he said.

The agency has “dramatically” grown its relationship with Constellation Brands since it was awarded the Jackson-Triggs account by Vincor Canada early last year, said Bensimon, noting that the agency is now responsible for Inniskillin, Naked Grape and Sawmill Creek (the latter two digital-only assignments).

And vodka is not small potatoes when it comes to the beverage alcohol category. According to a recent report by the website, citing the Beverage Information Group’s Handbook Advance 2012, the category grew 6% in volume in 2011, to 65.85 million 9-litre cases. Vodka accounts for nearly one third of all U.S. spirits volume and a quarter of all spirits revenues.

The report went on to call Svedka one of the “stellar performers,” with 2011 sales increasing by nearly 400,000 cases to just under 3.7 million cases. The brand is among the country’s fastest-growing spirit brands and the second largest imported vodka brand in the U.S., and has won several category awards.

“Everybody’s watching this brand because it’s knocking the doors off all the measures,” said Bensimon.

Bensimon Bryne’s work will include the “fembot” Svedka Grl that has been used in the brand’s traditional mass-media work for several years. “The plan is to continue to use her as part of the brand equity,” he said. “She certainly is a real differentiator for Svedka.”

The agency’s imprint on the Svedka brand will be felt on work appearing through the balance of the year, said Bensimon, while new marketing elements will begin rolling out in 2013.

How strong is Svedka’s current brand? Where should Bensimon Byrne take it? Post your thoughts in our comment section.