But Richard Lewis, TBWA’s former worldwide managing director of the Absolut brand, said the agency had initially opposed using the artists.
“Michel pushed us on that,” Mr. Lewis said in a telephone interview. “The agency was against because it wasn’t their idea, but more so because the brand was doing well, and they didn’t want to splinter the existing campaign. They weren’t ready to use an artistically driven bottle.”
Ultimately, Mr. Lewis said, the artist-created ads accelerated the campaign by attracting other artists, as well as Hollywood stars and others among the rich and famous, as Absolut consumers.
Mr. Lewis wrote a book about the campaign, “Absolut Book,” published in 1996.
“He was a very demanding fellow who loved anybody who had an idea,” William Tragos, a founder and former chairman and chief executive of TBWA, said of Mr. Roux in an interview. “So to our creative people he was an encourager. But at the same time, he was able to say, ‘That’s not good enough.’ ”
Mr. Roux used Absolut advertising as early as 1981 to court gay and lesbian consumers, believing they were trendsetters. In 1992, Carillon sponsored a 16-page portfolio of works by gay and lesbian artists in the gay periodical The Advocate. It included images of same-sex marriage, a gay-pride parade and the 1969 Stonewall uprising.
Absolut became a corporate sponsor of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in 1989.
The brand overtook Stolichnaya as the No. 1 imported vodka in 1985, and held that rank until 2015, when Svedka, another Swedish product, overtook it, according to Impact Databank, which tracks trends in the alcoholic beverage industry as the research unit of M. Shanken Communications.