St. Germain's Outstanding Ad


Welcome to the "Noticed Your Ad" series, where our self-proclaimed design snob discusses the ads that catch his eye -- for better or worse. Kevin welcomes your virtual high-fives, gripes or general commentary.

Ad: St. Germain

Agency Responsible: Sandstrom Design


Forty-five Frenchmen ride bicycles through the hills of bohemia handpicking baskets of fragrant elderflowers. This isn't the setup for a joke about swishy foreigners, but rather the proud first steps taken in the distillation of the best spirit you've never had.

Tasting like nectar with flavors of pear and lychee, St. Germain liqueur delivers. If you don't believe my palate alone, the spirit won Double Gold and Best in Show at the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

But to the company's owner, Rob Cooper, developing emotions and not merely visuals in the brand's advertising was as important as the taste.

While his advertising goal was intimidating, Cooper knew it would get him a far greater return on his investment in the long run.

He Believes in Impact

Cooper is an old pro at image selection and tasty alcohol.

He's the guy who built the Chambord Raspberry Liqueur brand -- you know that red stuff that looks like it's packaged in a Roman Catholic censer.

"I firmly believe in impact," he says.

To kick off the St. Germain design process, Cooper presented his advertising agency, Oregon-based Sandstrom Design, with an old photo he found in a Paris flee market.

Sandstrom's resulting package design for St. Germain won the Gold 2007 London International Award.

The Anti-Maxim

A lot of you probably have never had a sip of this stuff, so let's imagine that you're walking through a busy city when a poster of a turn-of-the-century pocket photograph catches your eye.

The image features a woman at a dingy bar, holding herself with a sprinkle of arrogance and uncertain poise.

She's the polar opposite of typically busty spokesmodels such as the Morganettes presented on Diageo's ( DEO) Captain Morgan Web site.

"It's refreshing to see a liquor eschew the Maxim school of advertising where only the lowest body-fat percentile babes are worthy of hawking booze," says Andrew Saklas, senior art director at Lanmark Group .

In St. Germain's magazine ads, the image of the woman repeated as a postcard is a mysterious relief from boring cardstock inserts and the perfect companion piece to the poster ads.

Dare to Take Control

Your customers aren't stupid, and if your ads treat them as such you're just like the schmuck that spends $30 thousand photographing the scantily-clad models we're sick of seeing.

And here is the lesson more small businesses ought to learn: St. Germain spent a bit more on its advertising than it needed in order to take total visual and emotional control with its magazine ads.

Rather than leaving things to chance, St. Germain bought up the full page ad that would sit behind its postcard in magazines.

And instead of reiterating the contents of the postcard, they filled the page with a lovely Belle Époque era wallpaper -- printed with gold ink no less.

Did you catch the trick; the sleight of hand? They brought you into the brand and didn't dilute the image one iota.

You thought you were just reading a magazine and then -- blammo! -- you're interacting with their advertising.

"They've achieved relative success with the viewer," Saklas said the first time he saw the ads. "The turn-of-the-century French nostalgia goes a long way to making me want a martini."

This is the kind of dynamic thinking that doesn't just sell products; it makes them into superstar brands.

If you put faith in your designers you're going to find yourself well rewarded.

Micromanage your advertising to death and you'll end up with obvious results: dead advertising.
Kevin Allen Jr. is a graphic designer for a health care advertising agency. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, he is also the author of the forthcoming Sweet Agatha, a work of interactive literature.