Ad of the Day: Smirnoff

Pharrell Williams mixes cocktails like he mixes tracks

Headshot of Emma Bazilian

Pharrell Williams is one of those do-it-all celebrities who don’t seem to get much sleep. Not only is he a Grammy-winning musician and producer, but he’s also managed to launch several clothing brands, design for Louis Vuitton, and appear in ads ranging from Revlon to Microsoft—just to name a few of his recent endeavors. Now, he’s lending his brand of cool to Smirnoff in the vodka company’s “Start Pure” ad campaign from Leo Burnett in Sydney, Australia.

“How you start is everything,” says the stoic Williams, standing in a white, spaceship-like room. “I start pure—with a blank canvas." (Apparently we’re supposed to equate mixing a cocktail with mixing a song; and vodka with . . .  silence? Rhythm? Unclear.) First he adds a beat with a round of percussionists, then the “groove.” As Williams sleepily points, visions of instrumentalists spring up, filling the room. “Then, the vocals,” he commands, and the white space is transformed into a packed club, its imperturbable creator above, looking on calmly at the crowd.

“The most exciting thing for me is the purity of the blank canvas,” Williams says finally—although you’d never guess he’s excited about anything from his flat affect. I’ve often wondered about Williams’ status as spokesman extraordinaire given the fact that he doesn’t exactly come off as personable, rarely emoting anything beyond an air of untouchable cool—but that seems to be his appeal. And in an ad for ice-cold vodka, a “blank canvas” according to its maker, the role fits.




Client: Smirnoff

Agency:  Leo Burnett, Sydney, Australia

Global Chief Creative Officer: Mark Tutssel

Chief Creative Officer: Andy DiLallo

Creative Director: Tim Green

Art Director: Chis Moreira

Copywriter: Mark Schoeller

Head of Client Services: Peter Bosilkovski

Business Director: Claire Kesby-Smith

Agency Producers: Rita Gagliardi, Tim Denton

Production Company: Curious Film

Director: Darryl Ward

Director of Photography: Christophe Lanzenberg

Producer: Tara Riddell

Executive Producer: Peter Grasse

Editor: Patrick Fileti

Grade/VFX: Cutting Edge

VFX Supervisor: Ron Roberts

Producer: Abby Buick

Creative Director: Brent Grayburn

Lead Compositor: Scott Geersen

Music Composition and Sound Design: Song Zu

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.