Aug 09

Driven to drink

Today’s topic has nothing to do with technology. It’s about marketing, plain and simple. Here’s a video that’s simple — but light years from plain. It’s from Johnnie Walker, and if you haven’t seen it already, you must carve out six minutes of your day for it. I’m completely jealous of this spot and humbled by the power of it. Unassuming, authentic, seductive, cool, gorgeous, stick your own adjective here. To me it’s just more proof (as if we needed any) that a simple idea is the most powerful force in marketing.

Of course once I’m past all that, the ad guy in me immediately starts wondering “how the hell did they pull this off?” Had it been dirtied by any obvious production trickery, it wouldn’t be half as effective. But every detail is perfect: the writing (beyond magnificent), casting, acting, timing, music, production values — it meshes together so seamlessly, the wonder of it almost goes over your head. Almost. Bottom line on this one: I’m not a drinker, but after I saw this video I felt like going out and buying a bottle of Johnnie Walker. I ain’t kiddin’. This stuff any good?

Update 8/23 11:55am: a big thanks to Perry Schaffer for supplying the credits. This is the work of BBH London — and Justin Moore now becomes my god of writing.

Update 9/1 2:38pm: found this interview with director Jamie Rafn. Fascinatin’.

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  • Tony Gill

    Very nice — I especially liked the casting of Robert Carlyle (who played the Scottish psycho Begbie in Trainspotting, amongst other roles), and the educational/historical aspects of the monologue. Unfortunately my first ever hangover was the result of drinking Johnny Walker Black Label back when I was 14 years old, so I’m pathologically unable to drink it, but it’s definitely an effective piece of advertising.

  • Michael O’Connor

    Hey Ken

    Yep, amazing ad. You’re right about keeping it simple. I think what really made it was Robert Carlisle, one of Britains greatest actors. Great casting.

    One that’s doing very well in the UK at the moment is Pimms (another drink brand) created by Mother –

  • Todd

    Thanks for sharing this Ken… if it makes you feel any better, there is a small issue with the video at the very beginning. The tune the piper is playing is called Doctor Ross’ Welcome to the 50th Argyllshire Gathering, however his fingers are not moving to the music… not sure what the piper is fingering along to but I can guarantee it isn’t Doctor Ross… otherwise stellar!

  • ken segall

    Hmmm, I am deeply saddened by this news! My bagpipe skills are a little rusty, or else I’m sure I would have noticed :)

  • Further proof, if any were needed, that the good Lord made Scotland a special place. Then, just to keep things balanced, He gave them the English as neighbours!

    Great ad Ken and great blog. Thanks.

  • Simple yes. Technology involved? Absolutely (no pun intended.)

    Would love to get the details on how the production was executed. No doubt there are articles on the subject.

    Ken, thanks for bringing this to our attention. It’s a great approach to a corporate history without dragging out the stock footage.

  • Fantastic. Yes, Ken, it is now your duty to research the behind-the-scenes of the production of this spot and let us all know the juicy details.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • great walk, thanks!

    I just wrote you a long email not realizing this was blog comments. where has the time gone?

    I think you have to look into projectalphabet.com
    good for dell. good for literacy.
    cheers, JHC

    e-mail to follow

  • Clay Crenshaw

    Beautiful! Isn’t it amazing how much extra oomph you get by pulling something like this off using One Long Shot?

  • Steve Alburty

    I was totally impressed by this commercial. Then I ran it by a friend of mine from Scotland. He said, “Funny, I was just hearing about layoffs at Johnny Walker. They are owned by a big conglomerate Diageo. I think they may be trying to clean up their brand because of the damage being caused by their plans to close bottling plants in Scotland.”

    I hear Diageo also wants to pull the plug on granny.

  • Lori

    reminds me of Roy Spence’s Walk Across America… but done right.


  • Ken Ward

    As a Scotch swilling snob, I find the idea of blended Scotch whiskey appalling. I would much rather have a nice aged single malt like a Glemorangie 18, Lagavulin 16, Macallan 18, Laphroaig 15 or my favorite the Deanston 30 (which I received as a Valentine’s gift this year.) However, with that being said, Johnnie Walker is easily my favorite blend. The black label is consistent in quality with popular single malts like Glenlivet 12 and Glenfiddich 12, and their blue label is absolutely sublime. Let me know if you want to do some Scotch drinking the next time you’re in Austin.