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Web Users Shape Absolut Bottle Art

The Absolut Co. is relying on the Internet to create the next funky silhouette of its famous bottle.

In a campaign called Absolut Next Generation, the Swedish vodka maker is inviting online users worldwide to participate in the creation of the new artwork that will join a 20-year collection of 600 others executed by well-known artists.

“We actually don't know what the final piece will look like,” said Christina Bergman, manager of Internet market communications for the Stockholm company.

The effort began last month, attracting nearly 1,100 Absolut fans worldwide. Using public relations and ads in Time magazine and its time.com sibling, the company is directing people to www.absolut.com/nextgeneration.

The site splits the effort into four sections that require data from the participant. The personal section asks for name, age, mood (bad to happy or good) and gender. In bottles and sounds, the user lists Absolut sub-brands and sounds in the most-to-least-favorite order. Details also are needed in the geographical (temperature, where the user is based, etc.) and computer data sections (computer type, time to fill in the form and operating system).

The details that are input translate into artwork online. The Absolut flavor preferences evolve into the size of bottles. The color depth chosen determines the opacity of fluid. The level of fluid is affected by the average age of the virtual artists. The mood is the ingredient for the color of the sky and so on.

Those who participate will get credits, Bergman said.

The online artwork is a continuation of the Absolut Generations campaign, which involves 14 pieces of offline art. Absolut artists Richard Wentworth and Semiconductor, both British and designers of the current effort's online template, will put the final piece together.

The interaction ends Aug. 15.

“This is the first time we're doing an online art piece and also the first time that we let people interact with an Absolut artist,” said Michael Persson, director of communications at Absolut.

“We've been very severe and very, very conservative when it comes to the Absolut artist,” he said. “We have 600 art pieces, which are taken care of by curators in Paris and New York and which tour the world and galleries.”

Once ready, this online art piece joins the Absolut Generations collection. It also may become part of Absolut's trademark bottle ads.

The company is clear that Absolut Next Generation is a test of how the Internet shapes Absolut's brand. It wants to learn how people interact with the brand online, and gauge their loyalty and feedback. Participants may even be encouraged to register for e-mail updates.

Absolut has 50,000 names in its online database, half from the United States. Sixty percent of sales come from the United States. It is the nation's leading imported vodka, ahead of Stolichnaya and Grey Goose.

Bergman said Absolut receives 50 e-mails a day, all of them answered by executives at the company. Absolut Next Generation may spur more contact between marketer and consumer.

“We're always involving artists in the communications of Absolut, and it's always been a great inspiration for the people working with the Absolut brand,” Bergman said.

“For us,” she said, “this is helping us to keep the vitality of the Absolut brand for the younger generation and for using art forms like the Internet and other video installations in the Absolut Generations campaigns. It's helping us to reach new consumers.”

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