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Carlsson & Broman DDB Needham

Start: 1990

Case story: The day after examination at Stockholm University I got the call from Lars Börje Carlsson. I must have done something right when I interviewed him for an assignment at the university some months earlier. He offered me a job at his legendary agency 

and DDB Needham – a global network with 100 offices in 45 countries. I was blown away.

A BIG step for a "never heard of kinda guy"

Yes, I came from a great university, but a small agency that nobody in Stockholm had heard of. Got the job and it was an undisputed  opportunity as well as quite a challenge. I was assigned to be the Account Manager for the Swedish Dairy Industry, with Milk Energy and Cafe Au Lait as major brands/campaigns. It was by far the agency's largest client at the time. My sudden pop-up entrance was perhaps not appreciated by all new colleagues at first, but they were nice people and I believe I earned my position eventually...

Milk Energy – Awarded the world´s

best dairy campaign in1989. 

Cafe Au Lait – Awarded the world´s

best dairy campaign in1992.

Under the wings of a creative genious

The years working together with Lars Börje is by far my most valuable years in the business. He was a genius and great mentor. I can not find words enough to describe the gratitude I feel about the knowledge, strategic thinking, critical questioning, conceptual idea making and the inspiration and trust he so generously shared with me. I learned a lot about branding, looking far ahead and about sticking to a strong vision no matter the resistance.

Legendary brands on the list

Lars Börje Carlsson and Gunnar Broman were respected legends in the business. They created and launched the following brands: 

Changed the coffee habits in Sweden. Every 3rd Swede started to add milk in their coffe. Sales increased by (X%). More.

Changed youth's milk drinking habits in competition with soft drinks. Milk Energy became the third most recognized brand in two years time (After Coke and Juicy Fruit). More.

Became the top brand in the beer segment, growing from 0% to 40% in just a few years time. Still alive and kicking.

Became the world's third largest liqour brand in only 20 years...and is still kicking. More.

Really? Absolut...the real Absolut Vodka?

Yes, some fatherhood issues have been debated – especially about the Absolut Vodka concept. Lars Börje Carlsson: "I chose to borrow a quote by Mr Lee Iacocca, who answered like this when a numerous of people wanted to take credit of creating the Ford Mustang: – At this point there are so many people calling themselves father of the Mustang, so I prefer not to get to know the mother." See the C&B story below.

Absolut and Cafe Au Lait were/are two of the most awarded and recognized brands in Sweden.



In the late 1970-ies Carlsson & Broman was assigned to create a brand and a design for a new pure vodka product. The client was Lars Lindmark, new as CEO at the Swedish Wine and Liquor Central Inc. The same person who gave them the Pripps Blå assignment a few years earlier.

Carlsson & Broman was deeply involved in the conceptual idea and the creative solution. The agency assigned was Carlsson & Broman and the creative team was Lars Börje Carlsson, Gunnar Broman and Hans Brindfors.


Several conceptual ideas with various bottle designs were tested: Royal Court Vodka, Swedish Blond, Damn Swede, Absolute Pure Vodka and Country Of Sweden Vodka. But less is more – the simplest one came to be the final one, modeled by an old medicine bottle in brown glass, found by Gunnar Broman in an antique store in Stockholm. The bottle origins from an old distilled water factory.

The name and the design.

The name Absolut origins from an old liquor product called "Absolut Rent Brännvin" (Absolutely Pure Liquor). A famous liquor launched in 1879 by Mr LO Smith from Reimersholme in Stockholm, Sweden. 


The label was then deliberately designed to be somewhat the opposite of traditional vodka bottle design – at the time overloaded with gold, red, fantasy ornaments, royal crowns etc. The idea was to stand out in a shelf full of fancy and ornamented bottles, and to convey the pureness of the pure content. The final design of "ABSOLUT VODKA Country Of Sweden" was carefully crafted by Lars Börje Carlsson. Lars Börje also added a few adjustments to the shape of the bottle as well as the metal crown cap. He placed the medallion with a portrait of LO Smith on the shoulder of the bottle. After rigorous testing the final choice fell on Lars Börje Carlsson's design. It was ready for launch in 1979.


The marketing concept was also deliberately the opposite of traditional liquor concepts – showing beautiful people in fancy environments. The Absolut concept was entirely built upon the idea and strategy – "the product is the hero" – meaning only showing the bottle as it is.

The launch in America

To launch a new vodka product on the American market was not an easy task – the big distributers said no, which some of them regrets deeply. Finally a small energetic agent was contracted: Carillon Importers Ltd. They managed to place the Absolut bottles at the right bars at the right time. It was introduced at the legendary Studio 54 and after it had been painted by artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring its conceptual advertising idea really took off.

Carlsson & Broman created an avertising concept based on the word Absolut and the bottle. But the little agency in Sweden could not carry the assigment of a demanding launch in America. So, the world famous ads for Absolut was later created by Carillon and their agency TBWA in USA. Their success was analysed in Journal Of Advertising Research in 1986 as follows:


– The target group did not like traditional advertising, they felt that "It insults my intelligence". The Absolut concept, with no arguments about the product's perfection, was considered intelligent and quick. A manner that rather flatters the reader's intelligence.

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