Absinthe a favorite spirit of European artists in the early 20th century is about to make a comeback with help from a local PR agency.

Walton Isaacson in Beverly Hills has teamed up with an importer to promote Kubler, the first Swiss absinthe sold legally in the U.S. in nearly 100 years. The agency hosted a launch party at the Green Door in Hollywood and has repeated the event in three other cities.

"Absinthe is like lightning in a bottle here in the U.S.," said Cory Isaacson, referring to preliminary sales of the drink. "It has this whole mystique about the Belle Epoque. The ceremony of bringing it back after a ban of 95-plus years has been well received."

Absinthe distilling began in Switzerland in the 1780s, using local wormwood leaves, coriander, mint, anise and fennel. Europe's middle-class drank it because of its low price, and in time bohemian artists adopted it as their favorite potent potable.

But the distillation of wormwood produces potential toxins, and health concerns led to the banning of the drink in most of the world. It has been making a comeback recently.

Under the deal with the import company, Walton Isaacson will take an equity stake in Kubler in return for promoting it. The agency plans to focus on the heritage and mystery of the product.

"This is a brand for creative people, hipsters and artists," Isaacson said. "This is the stuff that Toulouse-Lautrec and van Gogh drank. Now the green fairy is out of the bottle again."

Homer Wins Trophy

Interactive agency 65 Media in Marina del Rey has won the London International Award in Digital Media/Entertainment for creation of the SimpsonsMovie.com Web site.

During the movie's theatrical run, more than 5 million fans visited the site and spent an average of 30 minutes goofing around with Homer and family. The site features an avatar creator that allows visitors to become a Simpsons character and explore their hometown of Springfield.

Albin Reif, founder of 65 Media, called the Simpsons Avatar Creator "the Holy Grail of online advertising an unprecedented viral marketing success that turned the Simpsons-loving public into a motivated army of enthusiastic brand ambassadors."

During the campaign, the Simpson avatars showed up on YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, blogs and forums. Offline, entire offices, classrooms and companies Simpsonized themselves by decorating their buildings with the characters.

"65 Media did an amazing job creating a truly immersive and entertaining film Web site," said Hilary Hattenbach, vice president of digital marketing for 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the Simpsons. "This honor is well deserved."

The London International Awards honor work in advertising, design and digital media.

Neutrogena's New Face

Neutrogena, the L.A.-based facial care cream owned by Johnson & Johnson, has signed actress Diane Lane to put a pretty face on its brand.

"Neutrogena is about straightforward, technologically advanced skincare products that help consumers to look and feel their healthy best. Diane Lane epitomizes our mission through her candid, relevant voice and innate beauty," said Jim Colleran, president of Neutrogena.

Lane will appear first in a television spot for the new Neutrogena Healthy Skin Rejuvenator. Later she will appear in national TV and print campaigns.

At 42, Lane represents a step up in age for a Neutrogena spokeswoman. The brand's previous cover girls include Jennifer Garner, 35; Vanessa Hudgens, 19; and Hayden Panettiere, 18 now, but 15 when she took the job. However, Lane probably represents a closer match with Neutrogena buyers, especially for a recovery product such as Skin Rejuvenator.

Neutrogena can count on plenty of free exposure for its new face. Lane will star in the Sony film "Untraceable," scheduled to reach theaters in January. She will appear opposite Richard Gere in "Nights in Rodanthe," a Warner Bros. release set for June.

Lane earned an Oscar nomination for her work opposite Gere in the 2002 film "Unfaithful." Other recent credits include "Perfect Storm," "Under the Tuscan Sun," "Must Love Dogs" and "Hollywoodland."

Agencies & Accounts

Ashy Agency, which has long represented graphic design firms in contracts with the broadcast and entertainment industries, has expanded into print and Web design. Ashy's new clients include Fluidesign, an interactive design house, and Reflectur, a print designer. Ashy and its new customers are all based in Los Angeles. Garage Public Relations in Los Angeles will handle the media campaign to relaunch ShopBlueGenes.com. The site, owned by three sisters who run an Atlanta boutique that sells only denim, has new features on celebrity jean fashion and a personal stylist program.

Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at jrussell@labusinessjournal.com , or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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