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Kindred Spirit Whisky Commercials

According to MarketWatch, the global whisky market in 2018 was valued at 57,96 Billion US Dollars and forecast to reach 74 Billion by 2023.

It is a buoyant market sector on a growth trajectory in which Scotland has been the number one whisky distillery country in the world for over a hundred years and still is.

For whisky lovers there is a kindred spirit of globally shared connections to their favourite tipple and today whisky is produced in many regions of the world.

Whisky Distilling Countries

The United States, Canada, Ireland, Wales, England, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Tasmania, South Africa and India, are all whisky-producing regions, as is The Czech Republic. Some are well-established producers of many years and others are relatively new market entries.

The defining mystique of global whisky brands centers on national psychographics, distillery methods, grain spirit choices, pure water sources, unique blends and cask maturation practices. These discerning influences abound with conceptual opportunities for compelling brand communication opportunities.

Whisky, Whiskey and Bourbon

‘Whisky’ made in Scotland, fondly known as ‘Scotch’ is spelt without an e. The Irish however, spell their ‘whiskey’ with an e. Both are mostly distilled from malted barley.

American ‘whiskey’, with an e, known as ‘Bourbon’, is distilled from corn and predominantly produced in Kentucky and Tennessee. The distinguishing ‘Bourbon’ taste of American whiskey is derived from being filtered through ‘Sugar Maple’ charcoal. The most famous brands globally are Jack Daniels and Jim Beam.

Canadian whisky, without an e, generally consists of a blend of multi-grain liquors containing a large percentage of corn spirits and a small percentage of highly-flavoured rye grain distillations that defines the characteristic Canadian Whisky taste, often referred to as simply ‘Rye’. The most famous brand being ‘Canadian Club’.

1. Laphroaig Whisky, Christmas Carols Chapter 1

Advertising Agency: White Label, UK

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, as the name implies, is distilled on the island of Islay which is the southernmost of the Inner Hebrides islands, off the west coast of Scotland.

The distillery long running ‘Opinions Welcome’ campaign centers on the singular taste that the smoke from the peat found only on Islay imparts to Laphroaig.

For whisky drinkers there seems to be no middle ground. They either love its characteristic, rich, ‘smokey’ flavour overtones, or hate it.

Laphroaig on a continuous basis, boldly, and without any sensure or prejudice, reveal the pro and con opinions they receive as the cornerstone of their highly successful communication campaign platform of unique brand honesty.

Directed by Sariel Hesseltine, some of the more amusing and inventive taste reactions were set to music to be performed by a Scottish choir for a series of Christmas Carol commercials.

2. Johnnie Walker, Join The Pact

 Advertising Agency: Iris Worldwide, Singapore

Directed by Russell Appleford, this powerful special effects commercial is an unexpected departure from their ‘Keep Walking’ brand theme with a compelling social responsibly message.

The message gets a supportive endorsement by Mika Häkkinen, the two time McLaren Formula One World Championship driver.

3. Johnnie Walker, The Android

Advertising Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), London, UK

This multi-award winning commercial, directed by Dante Ariola with special effects from The Mill studio, about an android speaking about being human, motivated numerous discussion papers in the early 2000’s.

Summed up by the line “I have perfect sight, you have vision”, academics and communication specialists debated and analysed the commercial’s prognostic take on androids and artificial intelligence.

Sir John Hegarty has described the ‘Android Storyteller’ as one of his agency’s most intelligent creations.

On the Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking’ theme, the general academic consensus was that the strength of the message lies in the fact that it reflects the feelings, values, opinions and perceptions of success of its viewing audience.

“The campaign is selling us something else besides consumer goods. It is selling us ourselves”.

4. Bell’s Whisky, The Reader

Advertising Agency: King James, Cape Town, South Africa

This much lauded, excellently crafted commercial was directed by Greg Gray and struck an emotive chord with many viewers.

The selling line “Give that man a Bell’s” became a metaphor for a well deserved token of honourable achievement and a popular South African catchphrase.

5. Three Ships Whisky, Kitty Phetla

Advertising Agency: Mirum, Cape Town, South Africa

Directed by Mzonke Maloneyme with imposing visual style and grace, the commercial features South African choreographer and ballet dancer Kitty Pheleta.

She describes dancing as a beautiful conversation; “While you dance, you expose your inner self. And at the heart of this conversation is the perfection of the art form. It’s theatrical, a magic of the mind, and I judge myself daily in pursuit of perfection”.

6. Woodstock Bourbon, How We Roll

Advertising Agency: Cummins&Partners, Melbourne, Australia

Directed by Tony Rogers and filmed on location in the small town of Woodstock, Kentucky, USA, the story is about the discovery the distillers made that the more they turn their barrels, the better their Bourbon tastes.

The commercial is an amusing, tongue-in-cheek depiction of just how seriously the Woodstock townsfolk take the practice of rolling their barrels of Bourbon.

7. Jim Beam, Parallels

Advertising Agency: StrawberryFrog, New York USA

Superbly directed by Dante Ariola, the ‘Bold Choice’ campaign commercial stars the Oscar winning American actor Willem Dafoe.

The ‘voice-over’ narration is also by Dafoe and he reminds us that in life there is really only one choice; “All choices lead you somewhere. Only a bold choice takes you where you’re supposed to be”

‘Bold Choice’ won a Cinematography Yellow Pencil at the D&AD Awards and Cinematography Gold at the International ANDY Awards.

The American Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) honoured the commercial with three awards, Direction, Visual Style and Cinematography.

8. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey, Swarm

Advertising Agency: Arnold Worldwide, Boston, USA

For many Jack Daniel’s loyalists this brand extension of incorporating honey as part of their iconic Bourbon brand was sacrilege. However, this innovation, the first in decades, was not a decision that was taken lightly by the Jack Daniel’s company.

They realised that if the brand was to grow and prosper globally from its embedded male dominated image, they would have to have a contemporary brand diversification product with sufficient taste appeal to attract the interest of a largely untapped market of potential female Bourbon drinkers.

Their foresight proved to be well founded. The launch campaign was highly successful. Part of the series of launch commercials was ‘The Swarm’ directed by Laurent Ledru, and featuring the campaign’s ‘Biker Bee’.

The commercial was released on social media platforms and motivated 10 million views before it was flighted later on TV.

The soundtrack song ‘Honey Bee, Keep On Stinging Me’ is by Alicia Chakour and Sam Cohen.

9. Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, The Parting Glass

Advertising Agency: Opperman Weiss, New York.

Directed by Laurence Dunmore and filmed in County Wicklow, south of Dublin, the narrative is driven by the beautiful lyrics of a haunting Irish song that underscores this superbly crafted commercial that is an evocative joy to watch and is definitely in a league of it’s own.

The Irish have a unique, philosophical, whimsical and stoically pragmatic approach to life that has sustained them through a long history of hardship.

Expressions of the indomitable ‘True Irish Spirit’ are abundant in Irish songs that are admired by so many.

Here are the ‘Parting Glass’ lyrics.

Oh all the money that e’er I spent I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done Alas, it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had
Are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had
Would wish me one more day
to stay
To memory now I can’t recall So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Good night and joy be with you all

10. Johnnie Walker Blue Label, The Game Changer

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), China

40 years after his death at the age of 32, with the use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), Bruce Lee has been brought back to life to inspire and uplift a new generation of young people to seek self-improvement.

The commercial was a passionate filmic endeavour by Korean-American film director Joseph Kahn in collaboration with Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon.

Bruce Lee (1940-1973)

Not only did he introduce Chinese martial arts to the West, he also changed the way Chinese minorities were seen abroad, breaching that cultural gap between East & West.

He studied philosophy and drama at the University of Washington, chose martial arts as his means of self-expression and became a Hollywood actor. His most famous starring role was in ‘Enter The Dragon’. It is considered to be one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time.

‘Enter The Dragon’ was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

He inspired millions of people to seek self-improvement and Time Magazine rates Bruce Lee as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century and the greatest martial arts icon of modern, popular culture.

11. Johnnie Walker Blue Label, The Making of Game Changer CGI

This is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the painstakingly detailed production planning that was required to achieve the desired result.