Sep 09

Johnnie Walker goes underground

Why bother to run it where it's easiest to see?

Where oh where has our little Johnnie gone?

My link to that fabulous Johnnie Walker video in a recent post went dead the other day. That’s because the spot was pulled from YouTube. The message there is “no longer available due to a copyright claim by BBH.” There must be a story here that’s beyond my ability to comprehend, because, well… this is something I can’t comprehend. So Johnnie Walker tasks BBH to create some buzz, the agency comes up with an amazingly good idea, hires a director, signs a perfect actor and pulls off the impossible to make The Man Who Walked Around The World. And now they yank it from the world’s biggest video showcase just as it’s gaining notoriety?

I can’t find any authoritative explanation by Googling. The best I could come up with is that the copyright issue is a cover story and they simply wish to direct all traffic to the Johnnie Walker site. But if it’s there, they’ve done a great job of hiding it. So I’ll stop guessing. However, if I were Johnnie Walker, I’d do whatever I have to do to make it super-easy for the world to find a video that has the remarkable power to immerse the viewer in the JW brand for a full 6-1/2 minutes. How dare they shoot poor Johnnie in the foot.

FYI, the video in my earlier post is functional again, linked to a different site.

Update 9/2/09 1:45 pm: Interestingly, the video is now back up on YouTube. Only now it’s mucked up with subtitles (don’t you speak Scottish?). I’m tempted to just delete this post now, but — as we all know, mistakes live forever on the Internet. So kudos to all involved for sorting it out, but a continued shame-on-you for letting it happen in the first place. I will leave my own link connected to adland.tv’s site just because at this point I trust no one!

Update 9/3/09 9:53 am: Now that I’ve slept on it, I really hate the subtitles they added to the YouTube version. Half the wonder of this video is the breathtaking scenery, and now they’ve scribbled on it. I’m actually kind of shocked that the brilliant minds behind this video would vandalize their own work. Perhaps they were dragged kicking and screaming…

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  • How many times have clients said “I want a viral.” And you try to explain how random and elusive it is to get something that becomes interesting and entertaining enough to achieve that goal.

    So here, Johnny goes viral and they clamp it down?

  • Rich Carroll

    See, you created desire, and made me want to watch that video, then told me I couldn’t have it! Classic.

  • Zubin Kapadia

    Ken, I finally had a chance to look at this video today and while I didn’t see the pre-subtitle version, I can imagine it was much better. (I hate subtitles – no matter how hard I try to look directly at the image, my eyes are drawn to them.)

    I agree this is a great marketing piece for many reasons – cinematography, acting, script, etc. – but what struck me was their effective use of corporate history to reach buyers. History, especially for companies that have been around for 50 years or more (thus indicating they’ve done something right to survive) can attract consumers who are comforted by the fact that this is known brand and product tested over time. The “nostalgic element” of history also carries a lot of weight – you’ve probably seen the “Beyond Baseball” commercials that MLB recently put out – heartwarming stories of players’ lives told in 30 seconds.

    But history can also frustrate – think of museums that are poorly laid out. Too much detail is usually the culprit. Our minds are often only interested in the “table of contents” and not the “index,” and certainly not the actual text.

    Thanks for sharing. Love the blog!


  • ken segall

    Hey there Zubin,

    You raise a really interesting point about using history in advertising. In the case of Johnnie Walker, it seems so right. Communicating with such authenticity works very powerfully here. In technology advertising, I’ve seen this topic come up often and the history thing generally doesn’t work at all. There was a time when Apple would say things like “from the people who invented the personal computer.” But the truth is, people don’t care much about what you did before in this industry, they just want great stuff at a reasonable price. If a tech company falls back on its history for marketing, it almost feels like they’re just making up for some failings in their product. And I agree 100% that history can be confusing too — so, as always, simplicity is key.

  • Zubin Kapadia

    Good point Ken. Perhaps history works better in advertising for industries that are more static and less dynamic. The examples above of Johnnie Walker and MLB lend themselves to nostalgia. In technology and other fast-moving industries, we just want to know what’s newer and shinier.

  • Bob

    This smells of the age old battle between a client’s legal department and the marketing department. And it shows how afraid people can be of truly going social and loosing control.

    Sad sad sad