Johnnie Walker returns to TV after 50-year hiatus

Frances Magee: stars in the latest Johnnie Walker ad
Frances Magee: stars in the latest Johnnie Walker ad

Diageo's Johnnie Walker is embarking on its first UK TV campaign for 50 years, as part of the brand's plan to revive the flagging whisky category by attracting a new generation of younger consumers.

Johnnie Walker is the number one spirits brand in the world by value, with sales worth $5.8bn (£3.6bn). It has a small footprint in the UK where Diageo has focused its whisky marketing efforts on Bell’s. While whisky is a thriving global category, in the UK sales have been declining for a number of years.

To combat this trend, from 4 November Johnnie Walker will be backed by a £1.3m TV ad campaign which forms part of a £7.2m marketing drive aimed at 25- to 35-year-olds. The activity, which also includes cinema, online and print, marks a step change in Diageo’s whisky marketing strategy.

The TV ad, created by Leo Burnett Australia instead of the brand’s global lead creative agency BBH, stars actor Frances Magee, who has also appeared in a campaign for Magners cider. The ad features Magee walking through a gothic castle reciting verse before catching sight of the Johnnie Walker character at a decadent gathering.

The ad below, which has aired in Australia, will be adapted for the British market to push the serving of Johnnie Walker Red Label with ginger ale and showcase the brand’s new bottle.

Diageo GB customer marketing director Steven Hamilton said the "traditional cigars and tartan" image associated with whisky and its short drink serve were a turn-off for younger consumers.

Hamilton said:  "We need to transform it from this stuffy, provincial, not particularly exciting or glamorous, something your dad drinks, to a category that’s youthful, global, cool, a drink of substance, that’s got some depth to it.

"We have to get this category in growth and we have to attract young people."

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