IPKat takes Absolut to task for its cooperation with ‘Sex in the City’s fictional ABSOLUT HUNK plot line (see left).  IPKat notes:

“By associating its ABSOLUT mark and campaign with overt sexual imagery, Absolut has arguably tarnished its own mark, in which case its taking moral high ground in opposing third parties from registering such domain names as absolutbabes.com, absolute-erotik.com, absolutporn.com and absolutpussy.com seems just a tad two-faced.”

I suspect that IPKat is being ironic but I respectfully disagree nonetheless.  Everyone uses sexual imagery and I don’t think this is more overt than anything else (after all, the bottle is, as IPKat points out, strategically placed).   More to the point, the Absolut Hunk campaign is fictional, and thus the use is tarnishing only if you miss the joke.

There is a market distinction between such ‘overt’ sexual imagery and pornography.  This is something that the Judge in the Playboy/Netscape case overlooked as well, when she said that Playboy couldn’t be tarnished by being confused with hardcore pornography because it’s sold in the same channels of trade as hardcore pornography (which I don’t think is 100% accurate).  Sex in the City and Playboy, if they were movies, would be rated R (or, judging from this year’s season, NC-17).  They’re not for everbody, but they’re mainstream in the sense that there is no stigma.  Hardcore pornography on the other hand, is not mainstream, does have a stigma, and both Sex in the City and Playboy would suffer economic damage if they were labeled as such.  Marketers who push the envelope, still want to stay inside the envelope.

Disclosure: I used to represent Absolut in a previous life.