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'Not everyone thinks it's funny' | Legendary Charlotte ad man behind clever vodka campaign

"At first, people are like, 'What in the world is this?' and then people get it and start laughing," Dave Oakley of BooneOakley said.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sextro is a new vodka that's already shaking things up in Mecklenburg County.

Its ads are hard not to blush at, whether it's phrases like "You don't drink Sextro, you have Sextro" or "Have Sextro on the first date. Have Sextro with your grandma."

"I was like, 'Wow. Where did that come from?' It's definitely attention-grabbing," Charlotte mixologist Bob Peters said of the ads.

Dave Oakley of Charlotte ad agency BooneOakley handles the vodka brand's new marketing campaign. 

"At first, people are like, 'What in the world is this?' and then people get it and start laughing," Oakley said.

Oakley is used to stirring things up. Some may remember in 2021 when many people were still debating whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, he came up with an idea for a mobile billboard.

The billboard was on a truck that drove around Uptown. It looked like an ad for a funeral home, but it said "Don't get vaccinated" on it. 

"We got phone calls from all of this excitement," Oakley previously told WCNC Charlotte about that vaccination billboard.

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The truck was technically promoting StarMed, one of the main places people could get the vaccine. In the two weeks after the billboard drove around Uptown, vaccinations went up 22% in Mecklenburg County.

"I got chills," Oakley said. "Felt like it wasn't just an ad, [it was] something that made a difference in a lot of people's lives," Oakley recalled. 

His ad stunts often go viral. In fact, he went viral before going viral was even really a thing.

"We put up a billboard with [President George W.] Bush's face and said 'Gore 2000' [on it]," Oakley shared. "Everyone thought it was the biggest campaign blunder in the history of U.S. politics." 

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But it was actually clever advertising. The company "fixed" the billboard after a few days to add the phrase "Today's job opening: Proofreader" on it to advertise for 123Hire.com.

"From the beginning, fear was not in our DNA, and we were able to get new clients because we weren't afraid to do things that a lot of agencies are," Oakley said. 

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However, he admits his approach isn't for everyone. Some bars have refused to carry Sextro.

"Not everyone thinks it's funny," Oakley said. "We have had a little pushback."

Interestingly enough, the brand Sextro comes from a family name that dates back to Prohibition. Lorine Sextro started the distillery in 1929, and the vodka was named after her.

Besides North Carolina, Sextro is already being sold in Las Vegas and Iowa. There are plans to distribute in South Carolina and Georgia soon.

Contact Michelle at mboudin@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.  

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