2018 Winner

Constellation Brands (Svedka Vodka)

Banner Ad Curse

Bensimon Byrne

SilverData/Tech Strategy

SVEDKA Vodka, the #1 imported vodka in the U.S., is positioned as the ‘party amplifier’ brand to connect with its target of vodka-drinking millennials. Core campaign work, which is very high energy and abstract, has led to the brand consistently exceeding category growth and seeing
huge awareness gains over the last 5 years. However, for the brand to continue to maintain this position, it needed to reach millennials with not only great content, but content which is contextually relevant to the moment in which they are served the ad unit. This ever-distracted and sought-after key demo is constantly bombarded with ads across multiple channels, making the ever-elusive ‘breakthrough’ idea that much more difficult to crack.

The brand needed to continue to create affinity beyond top-of-mind awareness with the millennial target by getting them to take notice and engage with the brand during Halloween, a key period for SVEDKA and one that drives brand health metrics for the entire quarter, despite a short two-week run.

Knowing that millennials spend over 4 hours a day online, the team set out to scare them where they are. The scare tactic took the form of Cookies and re-targeted banner ads. All internet users have experienced how brands target them with gentle reminders of things they need to make life complete; a punishment of sorts for one online visit to look at a pair of shoes. As a brand that thrives in the realm of irreverence, it was decided to use this new reality to the brand’s advantage and create a personalized creep-fest that would not be possible without technology.

Re-targeted banner ads are incredibly creepy – following you around like a stalker and reminding you that your every move is being watched, measured, and weaponized for advertising. There is also a fine line between invasion of privacy and using data in an entertaining way. SVEDKA believes in giving its millennial drinkers credit for being savvy, and “in-the-know”. So, with a “wink,” a campaign was created which openly let millennials know they were being stalked by ads. Stalked to the ends of the earth.

The SVEDKA Banner Curse was created: web users were ‘cursed’ with a cookie and continuously haunted and followed by re-targeted banners for the duration of the campaign. The idea was to be very transparent that the brand was stalking people with an open display of how data was being used to track them. The team set out to use the data to create a personalized experience to get their attention.

An unprecedented amount of work was needed to develop the programmatic triggers for the campaign, so that headlines could be created against contextual or site placement ads. In total,
over 70,000 SVEDKA dynamic banner ad variations were used to reach people 16x on average. These variations included day-parting, location, device, even things they’ve posted or commented on, based on active listening tools. Watching a video on your mobile in NYC? SVEDKA knows it and will let you know. Browsing incognito? SVEDKA knows that, too, and will let you know you’re being naughty:



By scraping social feeds, it was possible to target people based on their conversations, and the images they post. Meaning, if people are caught talking about the wrong vodka, a banner ad can let them know. If they posted a pic of their Halloween costume, spooky jack-O’-lantern, or dog dressed up on Instagram, they got served a banner ad that called this out:



The curse could be broken by visiting the SVEDKA website and sharing the only thing more despicable than retargeting banners: click-bait social articles. Like a chain letter for this century.

The campaign led to the brand’s best Halloween results to date. Millennials were receptive to the Banner Curse ads with the creepiest massaging driving the engagements (clickthroughs) with an overall CTR of 0.47% vs. an industry benchmark of 0.10%. Halloween campaign traffic to the site increased 4x over last year and campaign engagement of sharing content (‘the curse’) from the website increased over 10x during the two-week campaign period vs. year-over-year. Overall, the campaign resonated with the millennial target, driving baseline gains by 41% for brand favourability and 14% for purchase intent vs. YOY.

Creative Agency: Bensimon Byrne
Creative Directors: Dan Strasser, Joseph Bonnici
Writer: Matt Doran
Art Director: Chris Brown
Producer: Caroline Clarke
Group Account Director: Chris Roop
Business Lead: Danielle Iozzo
Program Director: Katelyn Porter
Project Manager: Hana Yazdani
Creative Technology Lead: Patrick Schroen
Creative Technologist: Jamie Kaiser

Media Agency: Bensimon Byrne
Media Director: Thomas Shadoff
Digital Media Lead: Jennifer Will
Media Project Coordinator: Melanie Stevens
Programmatic Lead: Christine Benoit
Programmatic Optimization Manager: Nayab Mali

Editorial Company: Wingman VFX
Executive Producer: Samantha Simpson, Jenna Edwards
Motion Graphics: Lev Bravo

Audio: TA2
Sound Design/Music: TA2 Sound + Music
Executive Producer: Dana Gadsden
Audio Director: Steve Gadsden
Engineer: David Clarke

For registration inquiries, please contact Ben Soldinger at bsoldinger@brunico.com.
For partnership inquiries, please contact Neil Ewen at newen@brunico.com.