It's hard to think of a more perfect artist/brand union than Lizzo's new partnership with Absolut.
The 31-year-old singer has her hit single "Juice." Absolut has a new product line called Absolut Juice. Lizzo is an avatar of positivity and self-love. Absolut for decades has championed inclusion and diversity, beginning long before it was fashionable.
They almost seem destined to be together. And now they are, in a campaign released last week and spearheaded creatively by Patrick O'Neill, the creative director who is close to Absolut and Pernod Ricard from his years at TBWA\Chiat\Day. (The work was executed by directors/photographers JUCO and production company World War Seven.)
The campaign launched with a 30-second spot and two :15s showing Lizzo (and her "Big Grrrls") singing "Juice" and dancing in monochromatic environments that match the product's strawberry and apple flavors.
Simon de Beauregard, director of engagement at Absolut, tells Muse that the partnership was a natural fit for the brand, given its long progressive history and also its more recent communications, including the "Planet Earth's Favorite Vodka" platform launched last year.
"We've been at the forefront of culture for a long time. Now we're really pushing the idea of sustainable society and inclusivity," he says. "We also have the new product. The intent was to launch it in a big way, and not just talk about the product but the attitude of the product."
In looking for an endorser, Lizzo fit in many different ways.
"When we looked at the authenticity of the product—even when you look at the color, it's not perfect because it's real fruit—Lizzo appeared to be the ideal candidate because of who she is and how she talks about body positivity, joy of life, being spontaneous, everything she represents," de Beauregard says. "On top of that, she has the song 'Juice.' That wasn't the first reason we approached her, but it was the cherry on the cake, if you like."
O'Neill says he was drawn to music from the very beginning of the project.
"Especially with 'juice' being the topic of many different songs with many different meanings," he says. "It's a word that's taken on many meanings and a life of its own. Janelle Monáe has a song called 'Juice.' You hear it a lot."
O'Neill hadn't heard of Lizzo when the campaign ideas began to get rolling late last year, but by May she was firmly on the radar. Still, Lizzo wanted to meet with the creative team and talk about the collaboration in person before agreeing to do it.
"That said a lot to me about her integrity as an artist," O'Neill says. "She wasn't just doing it to do it. So we had an interesting meeting where she brought a lot of ideas. And we hit the ground running from there."
Lizzo was also drawn to the brand's history.
"We talked about the many, many years of artist collaborations, starting with Warhol, and how the brand respected the artists as they are, whether it was Haring or Warhol or fashion designers," O'Neill says. "She loved being part of that lineage. We told her, 'We want you to be absolutely who you are. You're not being the Absolut brand. You're going to be your real, authentic, unfiltered self. That's why people love you. That's the artist you are.' So that, combined with the authenticity of the product—and the fact that she behaves that way, pretty unfiltered and uncensored—it was a good partnership. We had a lot of fun with it."
Lizzo has been working with the same "glam squad" for seven years, and O'Neill brought them all in to work on the spots and photo shoots.
Click the images to enlarge:
"Her hair and makeup, creative director, choreographer, the nail person—we pulled her team together. It's just part of her artistry," O'Neill says. "We didn't want to just hire who we liked. So we brought her team along to complete the package, and she was very appreciative of that."
The monochromatic visuals were a way to bring the product into the visual look and feel, which O'Neill describes overall as "sort of a '70s hippie disco vibe."
On set, Lizzo was the consummate performer.
"You never know with talent if they're going to bring it, and we had a lot of scenes to do," O'Neill says. "We did that all in one day, and she didn't give us a bad take. She loves what she's doing and really likes to engage everyone around her and also be part of the fun."
Evidence of that—a video Lizzo posted on her own channels in which she's seen twerking with an Absolut bottle.
What tastes like strawberries and has apple bottoms? 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔 NEW ABSOLUT JUICE BITCH!— |L I Z Z O| (@lizzo) July 17, 2019
This is the beginning of a ABSOLUTELY juicy friendship... #getjuicy @ABSOLUTvodka_US pic.twitter.com/LF9TBKTBi2
"Hats of to Absolut for just embracing it," says O'Neill. "She's not the easiest sell at first glance when it comes to marketing, right? So I loved being part of that—the joy of working with her and her personality. She's so comfortable with herself."
O'Neill also liked that the work embodies body positivity but isn't explicitly about body positivity. He sees that as a step forward.
"I presented the creative as, 'It's not a flavor, it's an attitude,' " he says. "She embodies that, and it comes through loud and clear, even in the stills. It's not about making [body positivity] the core narrative. It's like, this is who she is, and you should be yourself, too. Be your authentic self. It's not about, 'Oh, aren't we noble for putting this plus-size woman in our campaign? Aren't we brave?' We've done that already. To me, this was a sign that we've moved passed that."