After 15 years, Johnnie Walker takes hike from the very agency that took it from us! My unique perspective…

December 18, 2014

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Above tweet says it all (plus love from Stu!)

After 15 years, Johnnie Walker (Diageo) is leaving its incumbent agency, the much-heralded BBH, for Anomaly. That’s a big deal for two reasons. First off, fifteen years is a long-ass time for any client to stay with an agency. The other reason is over those years, Johnnie Walker & BBH mined plenty of marketing gold together; its theme, “Keep Walking,” reached a zenith with The Man Who Walked Around the World, featured below…

Clearly, it’s a great piece of work, the resounding bag pipes indicative of the beautiful music these two companies made together.

But, you know, I have a special perspective.

Fifteen years ago, I was copywriter and fledgling creative director at Leo Burnett in Chicago, on the Johnnie Walker business. During that time I produced two campaigns for the portfolio: “Seeing Red” for Red Label and “Welcome to Civilization” for Black Label.

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While we were proud of those efforts, Diageo ultimatel put the global account in review. In an epic cluster f-ck we lost the business to a most-worthy opponent, BBH. Sir John Hegarty (is he a Knight?) lead his agency’s efforts and, being a UK run pitch, it’s safe to say we had no chance.

Still, we fought like hell. And, without bitterness, I like to think we came up with a campaign as good as anything BBH did. Their idea, as I mentioned above, and everybody in advertising knows, was “Keep Walking.” Our line: “Walk the Walk.”

Obviously, we were working from essentially the same strategy. If you’re taking notes the tip of our strategic spear was “masculine progress.” The wordplay with Walker was impossible to resist.

Regrettably, I didn’t save our spec work. But like BBH, a key part of the launch campaign featured JW’s iconic walking man logo. Which line do you like better? My opinion, one could make a case for either. Alas, our case would not be heard.

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“Keep Walking” vs “Walk the Walk”

And now Johnnie is walking… away…again

3 Responses to “After 15 years, Johnnie Walker takes hike from the very agency that took it from us! My unique perspective…”

  1. Michael G. McDonald said

    Circa 1977, our client, Somerset Importers asked McDonald & Little for a campaign for Johnny Walker Red. We presented the campaign “Turn Red”. It was co-opted by the incumbent, Smith Greenland and they ran it successfully for many years. I still have the comps.
    We were handling all of their bourbons and Aalborg Akvavit at the time and told them to shove it.
    Mike McDonald
    Co-founder, McDonald&Little, Atlanta

  2. Michael G. McDonald said

    At the height of the Cold War, one ad in our campaign said: “Bill Buckley is Turning Red.”

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