Hovering above the Upper West side of Manhattan is a new billboard for a Wodka, a brand of Vodka that apparently contains “Christmas Quality” for “Hanukkah Pricing.” And while some people are none too thrilled, claiming that the ad reinforces a stereotype of Jewish people as being cheap, the people behind the billboard say it’s actually all about what a great value the festival of lights is.
The Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League has already expressed the organization’s disappointment with the billboard:
In a crude and offensive way of trying to make a point that their vodka is high quality and inexpensive, the billboards evoke a Jewish holiday to imply something that is cheap and of lesser value when compared to the higher value of a Christian holiday… Particularly with the long history of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money, with the age-old notion that Jews are cheap, to use the Jewish holiday in dealing with issues of money is clearly insensitive and inappropriate.
But when Consumerist reader Keith wrote to the companies responsible for the ad, the response they received was that the ad is anything but anti-Semitic.
In an e-mail to Keith, a rep for one of the companies behind the billboard writes:
Simply put Hanukkah represents a better value because you get 8 nights for the price of 1 – much like Wodka, more for less. Additionally, Christmas is celebrated with a pomp and circumstance that outshines Hanukkah at every level – this is undeniable. As a Jew who grew up not celebrating Christmas in any capacity, I believed hanukkah was equal but like many Jews, envied the fancy packaging Christmas came in. Our campaign celebrates the simplicity of Hanukkah and Wodka and promotes the fact that, like Wodka, “fancy packaging” doesn’t equate to better quality.
The most apparent thing your e-mail identifies is the unfortunate way we as Jews, and many minorities (spoke at length with an African American partner of ours about this) see themselves which is as a reflection of the bigotry and stereotyping that is out there. It is because of this that we make assumptions when we see things like this – because we do see real hate sometimes and are sensitive to it. I am proud to say hate has not reared its ugly head with our billboards in fact, quite the opposite.
Hopefully this response will help re-focus you on all of the serious places where anti-semitism does exist – however it doesn’t exist anywhere in our marketing.
But as Keith points out, “You don’t have to be Jewish to find anti-Semitism offensive.”