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“Dear Ketel One Drinker” Ad Campaign

How an odd old font became the unmistakable face of a vodka brand.

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Oct 9th, 2013. Artwork published in .
    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    In 2003, the Dutch vodka brand launched its “Dear Ketel One Drinker” print campaign in the US. The ads feature no images, just a simple black-on-white message set in a custom version of Bradley.

    Ketel One’s typeface, credited to Atomic Type (Matthew Bardram or the UK retailer?), departs from the metal Bradley in several ways. The ‘K’ and ‘k’, with their the flamboyant legs, came from the Ketel One logo. Various details were simplified and terminals sharpened. The flourishy ‘i’ dot was replaced with a diamond (echoing the period). Other letters, like the ‘C’ and ‘H’, were simplified away from their fanciful medieval origins to more familiar roman forms. Many lettershapes were widened for legibility, such as the ‘s’ (borrowed from the uppercase), the ‘y’ (borrowed from the italic), and the ‘f’, which abandons the original’s stunted compensation for metal setting. The imbalanced ‘w’ is one modification that wasn’t given as much thought as the rest.

    Overall, the typeface is a smart modernization of a forgotten classic, and the long-running campaign is a perfect example of how a page of distinctive type is enough to distinguish a product. The image-free ads ran from 2003–2008 (when the brand finally broke down and starting incorporating an image of the bottle). According to Businessweek, the campaign was certifiably successful too, helping to propel a 47% sales increase since 2003 to 1.9 million cases sold in 2007. One ad — “Dear Ketel One Drinker, Hello Again” (and 90% white space) — scored 20% above average when readers were surveyed for remembering the ad vs. other liquor ads.

    Source: Photo by “jag9889” on Flickr. License: All Rights Reserved.
    Source: Photo by “thefuturistics” on Flickr. License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    When crediting the success of the campaign, one can’t forget the brilliant copywriting.

    Source: Photo by “chris501” on Flickr. License: All Rights Reserved.
    Photo: Stephen Coles. Scan of an ad that appeared in Architectural Digest, 2007. License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.


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