Few magazine ads are so intriguing that they compel you to rip them from their binding to add to a burgeoning collection decorating your bedroom walls, but those of us who came of age during the 1980s and '90s will recall that Absolut Vodka's campaign from the era managed to pull off just such a feat.
Today those ads are gone, along with many of the print pages that carried them, and a new generation is coming of age online. Absolut is still around, but the company's latest project is one that might seem a bit counterintuitive for the times: It's pushing a new luxury vodka brand, Absolut Elyx.
I met with the spin-off brand's founder and CEO, Jonas Tahlin, at the Hollywood Hills mansion that serves as the primary home for both him and his wife and the brand itself. The house is also key to Tahlin's strategy to make pricey vodka attractive to millennials unimpressed by premiums, pretension, and ordering tall, frosted, overpriced bottles of spirits in a club.
"The timing is right to come out with a vodka that represents the culture of today, which I think is much more about partying at home," he told me from the same sitting room where Mark Ronson and many others have celebrated their recent Grammy wins. "That's why we have this house: to show people how you can entertain and have fun at home."
In recent months, a laundry list of A-list celebrities like Beyonce and Jay-Z and names on the rise such as the Chainsmokers have come to party at exclusive events hosted by Tahlin. At each soiree, the Elyx flows freely, along with a constant stream of Instagram posts that seed the brand throughout the social zeitgeist.
He points out that the monthly expense of the house is significantly less than a single billboard on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, and it allows Tahlin to promote not just the Elyx name but a fuller and richer culture he hopes to create around the brand.
"It's easy to take any luxurious house and flaunt it and be ostentatious, but we've tried to create something that has charm and a bit of warmth rather than this clinical and minimalistic white luxury," Tahlin tells me. "We want people to feel comfortable here and relax."
Creating a social environment where big names can be at ease (while drinking Elyx, naturally) is a big part of aligning the brand with what Tahlin sees as core millennial values, including warmth, playfulness, transparency, integrity, honesty, and just straight-up realness.
These values are also reflected in the invite lists for Elyx events at the mansion, which tend to feature more creative personalities and gatherings reminiscent of the salons of previous centuries.
Tahlin declines to name names when I ask for the types of celebs who don't make his invite lists, but notes that "people who have fame for fame's sake" aren't part of the "culture of tomorrow" he's looking to cultivate.
He also recalls that he was invited to set up a special pop-up at the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January. He says he tries hard to stay away from our polarizing politics and passed on the opportunity because it didn't feel "on brand" for Elyx.
Tahlin himself seems the ideal messenger for the brand. He's approachable, eloquent, and welcoming, something like a Scandinavian Ryan Seacrest with a master's degree.
But at times it can be difficult to reconcile all the luxury with the target market. For Coachella, he offered celebrities rides to the festival in the Elyx custom copper-plated helicopter. At the time I visited, one of his copper-covered Land Rovers was on loan to Alex Pall of the Chainsmokers.
Aren't copper-plated flying machines crossing the line from authentic to ostentatious? Is this what millennials really want?
"Luxury and aspiration is not going away," Tahlin says. "But the way you create aspiration today is very different."
To do that, he explains, you need to return to the core values and simply creating a quality product worth paying more for without all the fancy marketing gimmicks. And throwing some classy parties instead can definitely help to spread the word.