Johnnie Walker

I just discovered Johnnie Walker this morning in a TV commercial. This world-leading scotch whiskey has been around since the 1800s, so you can accuse me of being out of the loop. Nevertheless, I have to add my two tardy cents about JW's current and compelling, albeit problematic, marketing effort.

Keep Walking
Bartle Bogle and Hegarty (BBH) launched the "Keep Walking" campaign in 1999, with an aim to link Johnnie Walker with progress and success among young professionals. The design above, by Jason Hill, for example, "highlights the journey to the top corner office."

BBH explains, "[I]t's in business that the self-made men find their fullest articulation...creating themselves in the tangible work of a day, they are what they choose to be, inventing their reality brick-by-brick, step-by-step." According to the JW website, "The yellow line represents the journey as he moves forward toward distinction."

Whiskey = Identity
The campaign displays simple and consistent creativity, a powerful use of imagery, and an identity-boosting, thrill ride offertory to its primary audience: 25-45 year old men.

But that's the problem. Besides whatever qualms you may have with whiskey in general, "Keep Walking" garners its power by associating whiskey with identity. Identity is the allure. You drink a glass of processed earthen items like barley and water, and you suddenly become a million bucks. The simple ingredients transform you into a culturally elite success story. At least, that's how you feel.

In this commercial, JW goes further by associating itself with the immortalization of your identity. But does field grain create social advancement and lasting success? Can water elevate you historically?

Of course not. Association plays that trick on you. Linking these basic items with the high life in graphically appealing ways plays that trick on you. This intriguing Washington Post article explains how JW plays that trick on you.

While I celebrate achievement and encourage the endless placing of one foot in front of another, I detest manipulative illusions and hyper-inflated product values. Succeed, yes; achieve, yes; press on, yes. But none of us can pretend these actions into our lives by wrapping our fingers around a drink.

In my next post, I'll show the commercial that got me started on Johnnie Walker. Stay tuned.


Bible pajamas

I don't know. I just don't know what to think about stuff like this. I work with college students and grown-ups, not grade-schoolers, so maybe I'm out of touch and missing something and I shouldn't be so hard on this kind of "Christian" marketing (The PJs come in a slightly different girls' version, too).

Or maybe it really is tacky and hokey and unnecessary, and I'm being too soft.

Somebody help.

Thanks, Andrea, for the link.


Armpit hair

I won't forget this anytime soon. Nor will my eight year old after I told her about it today after my wife tried to stop me.

Hey, she gets a kick out of stuff like this.

Thoughts? (Not on my parenting.)


El espejo de Oesed

"Oesed" is the name of a magical mirror in Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal. You probably know about this mirror already, but I'm just now getting through Rowling's first Spanish. I'm trying to dust off my half-forgotten college major, and at this rate I should have the series read by 2068.

Anyway, as Harry finds out, the mirror "shows us no more and no less than the most profound and despairing desire of our hearts." That's why Harry's reflection shows him surrounded by his long-lost family. Harry lost his family at birth and his heart's desire is to know them. They look so real in the mirror that he tries to touch them, only to grasp air.

Harry's friend, Ronald, sees a different reflection. Because Ronald has always been outperformed by his brothers (and by Harry), the mirror shows Ronald as a team captain and a champion.

"There are men who have been consumed in front of the mirror," Harry is told, "fascinated by what they've seen. Or they've gone crazy, not knowing if what it shows them is real or even possible."

I can think of several images the mirror would show me. We all see something we wish we had.

Seeing the SimGospel
El espejo de Oesed makes me think about advertising. Many advertisers care more about moving products than loving customers. To that end, they listen to consumers' hearts solely to devise their own version of a magical mirror.

Curiously, this advertising mirror "shows us no more and no less than something similar to the most profound and despairing desire of our hearts." Not the true desire but something similar to it. This something similar is what I call the SimGospel in On Earth as It is in Advertising? Moving from Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope. SimGospel images in advertising associate so closely with the truth that we believe the consumption of them will lead us to the truth.

We can touch and buy these SimGospel images in stores, seemingly getting us closer to our desires than Harry can get to what he sees in el espejo. And so like "the men who have been consumed in front of the mirror" we, too, begin to go crazy. Just look at our current economy - a deranged product of consumed consumers. Heaven isn't available, but our behavior says we think otherwise.

Harry's mentor helped him see this before it was too late. We also need help. Advertisers must help us toward the truth, not imitate and manipulate us with the SimGospel. And consumers need to recognize what their hearts truly desire, and then wait for it.

Ven, SeƱor.

To learn more about On Earth as It is in Advertising, follow the links here to read reviews and to purchase a copy for yourself or for a friend who works in advertising.


Double Take

By birth and by choice I belong to the Steeler Nation. This means I paid more attention to the Super Bowl this year than to the commercials that decorated it. As an advertising critic, this was uncharacteristic of me, but I couldn't help it. Go Pittsburgh!

A few ads caught my attention, however, and here's one in particular called "Double Take":

Work and the concept of calling fill a big file drawer in my brain and in my office. I open this drawer daily and find myself rooting through it, adding to it, mulling over its contents and laying that content onto the table for discussion. It helps that my co-workers share this interest, too.

Because "Double Take" is so visually effective, it instantly creates categories: work as Heaven, and work as Hell. Everyone has unpleasant work to do, but Jesus causes us to do another double take by flipping these categories. In his world, feet washing and humble service have the big office.

Few of us find moose butts appealing, but sometimes that's precisely where we ought to be.

(For another commercial and questions about when this isn't precisely where we ought to be, check out "Your calling is calling" and then come back to comment.)


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