The Stoli Group, the spirits company whose roots go back 80 years, is launching a new global advertising campaign today designed to give the world’s premier vodka maker a pop-culture booster shot, and hopefully, reintroduce it to a new generation of consumers.
It’s hard to make reporters—let alone consumers—pay attention to something as quotidian as a new ad campaign, but this one, called “Loud and Clear,” is a little different. The music was created by Hans Zimmer. Yes, that Hans Zimmer, the Oscar-winning composer behind films like Dunkirk, The Lion King, and Gladiator. And he’s not the only big Hollywood name on the project: Rachel Morrison, whose work on Mudbound recently led her to become the first women ever nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography, worked as the director of photography on the campaign, and Lorne Balfe, an Emmy-nominated producer, collaborated with Zimmer on the score.
I recently caught up with Stoli Group’s Global CEO, Hugues Pietrini, who spoke with me by phone from Cyprus (“We are big in Cyprus,” he said) to discuss the “Loud and Clear” campaign and how the company managed to convince Zimmer and Morrison to take part in it.
“As you know, Stoli has been around for 80 years,” explains Pietrini. “We still produce the vodka in Russia. We own our wheat fields. We were one of the first Russian brands that made it outside the Soviet Union to be sold in the U.S. in the ’60s and ’70s.”
It’s that history that informed the new campaign, because Pietrini believes it bestows Stoli with a certain claim to popular culture, particularly in the United States, which is its main market. “Most of the brands created in the last few years, they have no real heritage behind them,” he says. “They are all new.”
Stoli is different in Pietrini’s opinion: “It’s iconic.” To get that point across, and to reintroduce the brand to a new generation of consumers, Stoli wanted to make a big splash. “There is one thing we want to achieve is to be seen to be quite cool, and to connect with consumers and people who have not thought about Stoli in the last years,” says Pietrini.
To that end, they teamed up with British photographer Rankin to shoot a print campaign full of real people, doing what they love. For the film component of the campaign, Stoli Group brought in We Are From L.A., or WAFLA for short (the team behind Pharrell Williams’s Happy) for a campaign centered around the idea of being proud of what you do and who you are. “It’s a call to action to our consumers—or even those who aren’t our consumers—to praise people that lead their lives the way they want to and to be proud of what they do,” explains Pietrini.
Once WAFLA was on board, according to Pietrini, it was easy to convince Zimmer and Morrison to join the project. “I can tell you that when we started to look at photographers, we had four or five who really fought to get the brief,” says Pietrini, with a laugh. “They really fought! It was a dream brief for them because we gave them a lot of autonomy to do what they wanted. I think that’s what Hans Zimmer loved. We didn’t ask him to take the music from Gladiator or whatever it was. We said, ‘Listen, we’ve created a piece of art, and it would be fantastic if you would create a piece of music to go along with it.'”
With the power combination of Rankin, WAFLA, Rachel Morrison, and Hans Zimmer, it’s clear that Stoli has high expectations for the campaign. “We want to take back our place in the popular culture,” says Pietrini. “Stoli is an iconic brand. The category is very big, vodka is the biggest spirit category in the U.S., but it’s full of fakes.”