Johnnie Walker Gets Into The Spirit Of Things, Drops $15M: Marketing Masterstroke or Mistake

After watching this brand new ad for Johnnie Walker, two things are clear: 1. They still make a wildly popular Scotch whiskey (number one in the world to be exact). And 2, they commission damn good ads!

This is Johnnie Walker’s biggest marketing campaign in over a decade, which is poised to run across TV, out-of-home and digital for 18 months, and will be executed at the cost of $15 million.

The Next Step is the latest installment to their iconic Keep Walking campaign, and centres around the concept of journeys. This rousing 45-second commercial features a university student who sits late into the night working at his true passion, art.

The ad was entirely filmed in Sydney, which means we’ll have to suspend all sense of logic and reality, because the suggestion that a whisky-sipping, uni student lives in a sprawling Sydney apartment is frankly, unbelievable.

Such details aside, we then see our protagonist submerged in a sea of laptops. He appears unsettled, and begins to drown to the sound of incessant keyboard tapping.

Spliced into this vignette are shots of his artwork back at home.

He leaves.

Out of the lecture, he dives into a series of glamourous galleries only to be turned away, one after the other.

At this point, we’re told: “No one said it would be easy. Walking your own path seldom is. Because you never truly know where it will take you.”

After several setbacks, elevator doors open to reveal his painting emblazoned across a mannequin … then featured in a fashion show … then at an after party.

“Wherever you are in your journey, always remember, the most important step you take isn’t your last, it’s your next”.

Rewind to the exact moment when our everyman decided to walk his own path. Cut to black, and merge the logo …

“Keep walking. Johnnie Walker”

This truly is an extraordinary piece of creative. And what makes it extraordinary, is that it’s more than just a well shot ad. Leo Burnett, who created this commercial, undertook comprehensive consumer research, and it’s evident.

The magic of this ad is in its relatability. We’re watching a real person, not a celebrity, live out a very real experience.

This ad is designed to appeal to the career-focused, who have most probably faced a degree of adversity on their journey to success. This group are also more likely to have an income that could support such a refined drinking habit.

And if this is the case, it must be asked, why cast a university student? Possibly because, again, being a student at university is a relatable experience for most successful career people. Or, maybe it’s the Happy Meal strategy of ‘get-them-in-young’.  And maybe it’s a bit of both.

What is even more relatable to a wide audience, is the fear of rejection and failure. Name a person who hasn’t had a moment (or ten) when they’ve questioned, did I take the right path?

Johnnie Walker have always celebrated stories of personal achievement and have always encouraged people to walk their own path.

This notion is also quintessentially Australian. This ad plays into Aussies’ affection for the underdog, and their support for a fair go, hard work and persistence.

These qualities closely align with Johnnie Walker’s 20-year commitment to personal progress, growth and achievement.

In marrying these shared values, Leo Burnett has created the perfect mix.

So, for these reasons, this week, it’s a Marketing Masterstroke.

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Written By: Joshua Britt