Johnnie Walker, the whisky brand that famously traversed the world, makes stops in American cities like Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., in its latest campaign from Anomaly, timed to Election Day.
Themed "Keep Walking America," this particular road trip is powered by a heartfelt spoken-word rendition of "This Land Is Your Land," Woody Guthrie's iconic 1940 celebration of social justice and inclusion.
Voiceover artist Rommel Molina provides the narration, including some phrases in Spanish, during the 90-second spot below. His lightly accented recitation, plainly stated yet intense and yearning, speaks volumes about the American experience:
"As we were developing the campaign, we felt strongly that the spoken lyrics of our anthem should be powerfully delivered, distinct and an authentic representation of America's cultural diversity," Stephanie Jacoby, client vp of marketing, tells Adweek. "We are proud that the lyrics are read in both English and Spanish, reflecting the mix of languages spoken daily in our communities."
The ad starts off with some lines often excluded from recorded versions of the song: "As I went walking, I saw a sign. And on the sign it said, 'No Trespassing.' But on the other side, it said nothing. That side was made for you and me."
Spoken over a moody montage of average folks going about their daily grind—including an ER doctor, a cattle rancher, a ballerina and a military veteran—those words really resonate.
"We hope this work is not only an inspiration but a reminder that each and every one of us have an important role within society," says Anomaly New York CEO Karina Wilsher, "and that individual progress can lead to collective progress for the future of our country."
Shot documentary-style in different U.S. cities over two weeks by Anonymous Content's Chris Sargent, the ad wisely avoid clichéd appeals to Americana. There are no shots of Old Glory or Fourth of July fireworks—just footage of hard-working Americans of various ages and ethnicities doing their jobs and living their lives. (Also, the jaunty atmosphere of Anomaly's initial work for the brand is nowhere in sight.)
Overall, the new film manages to be more than the sum of its parts, mainly because the earthy, at times gritty visuals and evocative words (Woody Guthrie sure could write copy) mesh exceptionally well.
Of course, it's election season (hadn't you heard?), so brands of all stripes have been waving the Red, White and Blue. Still, Johnnie Walker believes its approach "significantly distinguishes 'Keep Walking America' from other campaigns and reinforces the brand's role as an icon of progress," Jacoby says.
That might sound like hyperbole, and some could accuse the distiller of overreaching. Still, it's worth noting that the Scottish whisky itself was once a stranger to these shores and worked hard to succeed in a new land. It clearly knows a thing or two about mixing sundry tastes into the cocktail of American culture, and this effort effectively stirs up some important ideas worth everyone's consideration.
"The campaign speaks to all Americans," Jacoby says, "but we think it's especially resonant with the multicultural generation, which is deeply passionate about their viewpoints and their important role contributing to our country's advancement. We hope our campaign ignites meaningful discourse on cultural diversity and how it adds to the rich fabric of America today."
Brand: Johnnie Walker
Campaign: "Keep Walking America"
Client: Diageo North America
James Thompson, CMO
Alex Tomlin, SVP Marketing
Stephanie Jacoby, VP Marketing
Agency: Anomaly New York
Production Co.: Anonymous Content
Director: Chris Sargent
Executive Producer: Ayelet Weinerman
Edit: Saints Editorial
Editor: Ross Birchall
Mix: Heard City
Post Production: Method Studios
VO: Rommel Molina
Color: Company 3
Colorist: Tim Masick