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Is This Breathtaking Spec Ad for Johnnie Walker the Best Student Work Ever? Inside the making of 'Dear Brother'

Talk about being your brother's keeper.

This haunting Johnnie Walker spec ad from Germany explores that concept in highly memorable fashion—delivering one of the most potent punch lines of the year.

Two brothers traverse the fog-kissed, craggy terrain of Scotland's Isle of Skye—their childhood home, apparently—as a voiceover poetically recounts their experiences and depth of feeling for each other. The notion of "freedom," and "being free," surfaces several times as they climb rocky hills and gaze over twisted landscapes as desolate and awe-inspiring as the mountains of the moon.

Reaching a dilapidated farmhouse-type structure, they share some Johnnie Walker, then continue on to a desolate peak overlooking the sea.

Watch "Dear Brother" below before reading further.



Whoa—to die for, right? Killer! Sure, it's a Sixth Sense riff nearly a generation after the fact, and also vaguely reminiscent of surprise endings like the one in that Robinsons juice spot. Still, the ad masterfully tweaks a somewhat familiar twist into something truly special. The heartfelt vibe and evocative imagery over its 90 seconds keep the finale from getting overly maudlin. Some might say the denouement verges on parody or dark humor—but skirting such territory gives the film extra dimension.

Plus, the notion of a physical and spiritual journey exploring what it means to be "free"—for both brothers, in this case—powerfully distills the essence of Johnnie Walker's "Keep Walking" mantra (which flashes on screen at the film's conclusion). In fact, "Dear Brother" takes this conceit down a whole new road.

We raise a glass to directors Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherz!

Both are studying at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg (which produced "Dear Brother") and hoping to make it big in the ad biz. Lebherz took a few minutes to chat with AdFreak about the project:

AdFreak: Why do spec on such a grand scale?
Dorian Lebherz: We wanted to create an emotional film that tells the story of two brothers that go back to the most important places of their youth. We love to connect emotional storytelling with great cinematic pictures. So we followed the two brothers on the paths of their youth through the Scottish highlands. We tried to integrate the brand. The story itself is based on the message "Keep Walking."

That's quite a surprise ending.
The twist at the end of the film is to surprise the viewer about the fact that the brother isn't here anymore and to recreate the feeling of somebody missing. That is also the reason why we tried to keep the one alive always with a slightly sad attitude and to frame the picture so that it would work without the dead brother. Nearly everybody has been to the point that you've lost someone, so everyone can empathize with the feeling of our protagonist. It's the memories that keep those persons alive.

What was the inspiration for the story?
We wanted to create a story that touches the viewer within 90 seconds. I think when something touches you, you keep it in mind. So, one day we had the idea of two brothers visiting the places of their youth for the last time together. The Scottish landscape and the brand felt perfect for this situation.

Have you shown it to the brand?
We love the old advertising message "Keep Walking." It says don't stop until you reach your goal. It stands for the effort that somebody puts into something, and that is what made the brand big. But Johnnie Walker lately changed their message to "Joy Will Take You Further," and produced a film with lots of different situations of people climbing or going by hot-air balloon. We think that a visually told story that creates emotions is always stronger than just showing different settings without storytelling. So we haven't showed it to the client yet. But we are thinking about it.

Describe the challenges of shooting on location.
When we first arrived the weather was beautiful, and we visited all the locations where we wanted to shoot. We also found some stones where we wanted the actor to slip. When we woke up on our first shooting day, the weather was terrible. It had been raining all night long, and when we arrived at the river again, the water was about half a meter higher than before and it was rushing. The place where we wanted to shoot was gone. So we had to search for another spot. That is what we had to do all through the shoot. We had to change the story with the weather. I think this is what makes the film very real. We always had to deal with changing situations.

CREDITS
Directors: Dorian Lebherz, Daniel Titz
Director of Photography: Jan David Günther
Production Company: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg
Producers: Madlen Folk, Johann Valentinitsch
Starring: Mathew Lewis Carter, Robin Guiver
Editor: Raquel Nuñez
Music: Renée Abe
Sound Design: Marvin Keil
Voiceover: John Reilly
1st Assistant Camera: Adrian Huber
Colorist: Jan David Günther

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AdFreak is a daily blog of the best and worst of creativity in advertising, media, marketing and design. Follow us as we celebrate (and skewer) the latest, greatest, quirkiest and freakiest commercials, promos, trailers, posters, billboards, logos and package designs around. Edited by Adweek's Tim Nudd.

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