Every time I drive on the New Jersey Turnpike I see one of these billboards, and every time I see one of these billboards I start getting a phantom headache. The crisp, compact jpeg here doesn't do justice to the image looming beside the highway: Clive Owen's pained gaze, caught between excesses of light and of shadow, as he shoves a lowball glass toward the viewer, like he's trying to ward something off with it.
Who decided to market a vodka with this image? Clive Owen is a handsome movie star, in his way, and projects a charming personality, in his way—but said way usually creates the impression of a certain amount of struggle or trouble. His appeal is not easeful.
The line between sophisticated English masculinity and haggard abject drunkenness is a thin one to begin with, and this is not a suave or flattering photograph. He looks terrible, especially out in the hot daylight of New Jersey. He looks exactly like a hangover feels. A vodka hangover. Drink this, Clive Owen is saying, and suffer.
This same brand of vodka also appears in the window of my neighborhood liquor store with a display built around imagery of a jumpsuited Elvis Presley—an even more powerful icon of excess and dissolution. Three Olives Vodka: For When You Just Want to Die.