Johnnie Walker is known for producing some truly stunning, entertaining and evocative short films that masquerade as ads. Scotch ads in general are pretty awesome, but Johnnie’s have been the best. I think it is because they leant so far into their mythos. Gently driving images of Scotsmen of indeterminate age but indisputable attractiveness, walking relentlessly across misty Scottish moor and mountain, exuding from every frame a sense of restrained, subtly joyous manliness will evoke the realization that while the Romans may have invented stoicism, the Scots made it worthwhile. Whatever one’s consciously identified ethos, just beneath the surface of the mind, all men want to be the characters in Johnnie Walker ads, and all women want to be with them.
And their latest ad takes it up a notch… with a twist, several in fact. The foremost is that Johnnie Walker didn’t make it. Watch it now. It’s only 90 seconds and well worth every one. Don’t read on until you do.
That folks, is a student-made spec ad from Germany. I’m pretty sure that 90-second amateur videos don’t get Oscar consideration for Best Short Film, but this one should. It’s a masterpiece of moving picture story-telling. In less time than it takes (me) to whip up a Rob Roy, it tells a complete story of a life well-lived and tragically cut short, of familial love, and devotion, and loss. The cinematography is gorgeous, the camera tricks seamless, the music is perfect, and the words are transfixing. It is the film equivalent of Hemingway’s legendary (in every sense of the word) six word short story, “For Sale, baby shoes, never worn.”
And as an advertisement, it is almost perfect. The story doesn’t just touch, it pounds on a central element of human existence that any person of an age to be buying Johnnie Walker has begun to confront, and it inserts the product in a subtle way as a central element to both happiness and healing. Its only flaw is that the brand has changed its slogan and its marketing narrative of late from the Keep Walking that was perfect for this story to one that is less so.
Still, I wish Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherz all the success in the world, in the United States would be preferable. They are the kind of ad makers that can keep me from hitting FFWD on my DVR.