Barton F. Graf Stays Perfectly Weird for Ketel One

By Erik Oster 

Normally ads extolling a brand’s long legacy tend to be dry and, frankly, a little boring. That’s not the case with the new Ketel One campaign from Barton F. Graf, which secured creative duties for the brand in September. Instead, the effort is as absurd as you might expect from the agency behind Tomcat’s “Dead Mouse Theatre” while also distilling the message of the brand’s storied history.

“Nolet Approval,” for example, explores how every batch of Ketel One must be approved with the signature of a member of the Nolet family. But that’s just the beginning of the process, which gets more and more over-the-top from there. “You don’t understand, it has to be perfect,” concludes the tagline.

Ketel One chairman Carl Nolet Sr. appears in the ad, as well as “Generations,” which explores the long line of the Nolet family with a helpful (not really) pneumonic device. Another ad takes a look at the alarm system installed to alert angry vodka-loving townspeople if any artificial flavor is added to Ketel One’s Citron vodka, while another examines the “Tasting Profiles” employed to ensure top quality.

Each spot attempts to incorporate absurdist whimsy into an aspect of the brand’s heritage, quality control and legacy, with varying results. Even at its least convincing, though, the approach is memorable.


“Millennial consumers are looking for brands that have authentic stories and substance,” Ketel One executive vice president Carl Nolet Jr. told AdFreak. “Everything must be done with meticulous attention to detail, even when minor, because a legacy depends on it. Pressure makes diamonds. It also makes Ketel One.”

Brand: Ketel One Vodka
Campaign: “You Don’t Understand, It Has to Be Perfect”
Client: Diageo North America
Diageo leads: James Thompson, Alex Tomlin, Rodrigo David Ortigosa
Agency: Barton F. Graf
Founder/Chief Creative Officer: Gerry Graf
Group Creative Director: Nick Kaplan, Nate Naylor
Copywriter: Richard Langhorne, Mark Bielik
Art Director: Zack Madrigal, Ross Fletcher
Head of Production: Josh Morse
Producer: Erica Kahr
Account Director: Yvette Ames
Strategy Director: Deepa Sen
Production Co.: Canada/The Directors Bureau
Directors: Canada – Nicolás Mendez, Lope Serrano
Executive Producer, Managing Director: Oscar Romagosa
Executive Producer: Marta Argullós
Executive Producer/Head of Production, The Directors Bureau: Elizabeth Minzes
Edit: Rock Paper Scissors
Editor: Carlos Arias
Mix: Heard City
Mixer/Sound Designer: Evan Mangiamele
Color: Company 3
Colorist: Sofie Borup