When Engagement Becomes Enragement

Of course, it's happened to many of us. We were drawn to a product whose advertising captured our fancy, but a cruel fate kept us from getting our hands on it and bringing it home. This is my story of one such broken engagement.

It all began with a full-page ad in Entertainment Weekly for Smirnoff's new Grand Cosmopolitan ("The perfect Cosmo ... in every pour"). I saw the ad again in the July and August issues. I was so engaged that I even tore the ad out.

Then, I proceeded to visit at least a dozen liquor stores in my Greenwich Village neighborhood to find it--without luck. It wasn't even at the well-stocked Astor Wines & Spirits in the East Village. Few had heard of it, and by their responses, they didn't seem to really care. (You've got to love Manhattan merchants!). If Smirnoff was trying for a "push" marketing strategy, it didn't appear to be working.

My desire for the product was further whet by a banner ad I noticed on the home page of I visited the Smirnoff Web site, but there was no link to show me where it might be stocked in Manhattan. So I e-mailed Smirnoff customer service for help. A week later, I received a reply and was told to contact their distributor, Empire Merchants LLC, which would tell me which stores in Manhattan carried it.



So I called the distributor only to be told that it was company policy not to divulge such information--since it might appear to be playing favorites. I told the woman that since I would be the ultimate "decider" about which store to patronize, her company was off the hook. Then she changed her story and claimed the computer system wasn't set up to provide the store information.

Exasperated, I e-mailed Smirnoff's customer rep, Alexia, to tell her what had transpired. That was one month ago--and I'm still waiting for a response.

Some friends say I should just buy it online, but I don't want to. Others scold that as a New Yorker, I should be embarrassed to even consider serving a pre-mixed Cosmo. Perhaps, but I'm a sucker for convenience. Friends in marketing tell me it doesn't matter to Smirnoff, since I'm likely not in the target audience--probably women 21-34.

A few point out that the distribution pipeline in Manhattan is like no other place in the U.S., so I shouldn't be surprised not to find it. No matter, I'm still disaffected, disgruntled and disengaged. And I'll think twice before buying a Smirnoff product in the future.

As frustrating as the experience was, I also feel badly for the Smirnoff's ad agency. Its ad completely engaged me, but I was left wanting because of other factors farther along the marketing channel. And what of engagement models that some media agencies use to fine-tune communications delivery? I'm betting that nullified engagements like mine can't be taken into account. (Perhaps in a future iteration, it will.)

Alas, hope springs eternal, and I look forward to the next ad that captures my fancy, promising a more fulfilling engagement. In fact, I've been seeing an ad for a new turbo-charged Swiffer mop that I just may want to track down ...

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