Michael Imperioli was tough. Ray Liotta is tougher.
The 58-year-old Goodfellas actor stars in a new international campaign for 1800 Tequila that carries the theme "Enough said." And indeed, he says next to nothing in three 60-second spots (and one :15)—letting his badass attitude, and his drink, do the talking. (Only one of the spots, "Them Boots," has been posted online so far.)
The spots, the first for the Proximo Spirits brand by The VIA Agency in Portland, Maine, were filmed in Buenos Aires by the music-video director Anthony Mandler (whose prior ads have included Diddy's "Luck Be a Lady" for Ciroc). They're simple stories—Liotta is seen at a train station, at a boxing match, stuck in a traffic jam. In each case, he finds his way to a glass of 1800 Tequila, quietly staring down anyone in his way (unless it's an attractive woman, in which case his staring brings her closer), silently judging the girly-drinking men in his midst, and offering, here and here, his trademark half laugh/half snarl.
It all looks and sounds great—lots of slow motion, the same moody electric guitar in each spot, dark atmospheres dominated by shadowy greens and blues. And Liotta is perfect as the tough guy drawn to the tough guy's tequila—a role played much more loquaciously in previous campaigns by Imperioli, the Sopranos actor.
"He did a really good job of establishing the positioning. But we almost felt like, toward the end, it was almost saying too much," VIA chief creative officer Greg Smith said of the previous work. "This guy doesn't want to work that hard. He wants to see and feel it. He doesn't want to be told it."
The agency put Liotta in the deck to illustrate the idea to the client, not thinking they'd ever get him. But when they did reach out to him, Liotta was game. "He liked the cinematic quality of it. He liked the sense of exotic location. And he just thought it was cool," said Smith. "He's had quite a resurgence on the indie scene in the last couple of years with Killing Them Softly and The Place Beyond the Pines and The Iceman. This is a further trajectory in his return to that classic American-actor style. And he'll probably get seen in these commercials more than he did in those three movies combined."
Clarifying the 1800 positioning, Smith said it's "not about velvet ropes and artisanal bottles and all that shit. It's about what tequila used to be, which is mystery and toughness—a guy's guy's drink."
The location provides a useful juxtaposition. "We wanted something that felt third world but that could also go upscale, too," said Smith. "That's what Buenos Aires is—that connection to the Old World, European style and third-world Latin American verve." And the lack of dialogue, of course, has the added benefit of making the campaign accessible in more markets to more non-English speakers.
A long-form spot, almost a mini-feature, is coming in the next couple of months, and will give Liotta some more dialogue. But for now, his reticence speaks volumes—making Imperioli, and also Kiefer Sutherland in his Cuervo ads (also for Proximo), look like they were trying way, way too hard.
Client: 1800 Tequila, Proximo Spirits
Campaign: "Enough Said"
Agency: The VIA Agency, Portland, Maine
Chief Creative Officer: Greg Smith
Producer: Mary Hanifin
Creative Directors: Kevin Phillips, Steve Street
Group Strategy Director: Jason Wright
Account Executive: Lyndsey Fox
Associate Producer: Dustin Levine
Production Company: Believe Media
Executive Producers: Liz Silver, Luke Thornton
Director: Anthony Mandler
Director of Photography: David Devlin
Editorial House: PS260
Editors: JJ Lask & Dustin Stephens
Asst Editor: Rex Lowry
Sr Producer: Laura Lamb Patterson
Exec Producer: Zarina Mak
Finishing: PS260 Finishing