Peet’s Utilizes Iliza Shlesinger’s Talent Perfectly by Letting Her Go Joyously Off Script

The jokes come at you fast in new campaign

Iliza Shlesinger and co-star Blanche. Peet's Coffee

On a Saturday night in April, comedian Iliza Shlesinger shared The Comedy Store bill with a massive slate of performers, including one of the club’s stalwarts, Marc Maron.

With all due respect to the WTF podcast host, neither he nor anyone else taking the stage in Los Angeles could hold a candle to Shlesinger, who has a quartet of Netflix comedy specials under her belt including the highly lauded Iliza: Elder Millennial. Her energy was infectious, the barbs came fast, her set was clever, relevant and flat-out funny from start to finish—and the 2008 winner of Last Comic Standing made it all look absolutely effortless.

Which is one of the many reasons Peet’s Coffee and Portland agency North cast Shlesinger in a series of national ads launching Peet’s Iced Espresso today.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen ads that could be described as “classically funny,”—let alone four of them—yet Shlesigner’s wild rides dealing with telemarketers, hotel doors, wardrobe fittings and sound checks are a simply wonderful breath of fresh air and a heck of a way for a brand to introduce its newest product.

The unscripted spots in the #AlwaysJustified campaign—two of which feature her Pomeranian mix dog Blanche—have Shlesinger’s fingerprints all over them—she served as a creative consultant on the project—and the comedy star found a good match with the brand.

“First and foremost, I look for brands I actually engage with in my real life … and that overlap our Venn diagrams of morals, ethos and objectives,” Shlesinger said on the Portland set of the shoot. “I drink Peet’s Coffee, and they’re a very authentic company. They don’t try to be something that they’re not, and I think that’s reflective in my comedy as well.”

“We wanted someone that was going to contribute to the creative,” said Gretchen Koch, senior director of consumer marketing for Peet’s. “Iliza rose to the top as a partner for us because of who she is and her sense of humor. She’s very relatable and real.”

The cold bottled coffee category is extremely competitive. Starbucks, in a partnership with Pepsi, launched its first cold beverage over 25 years ago, and the selection of options is dizzying. Yet Peet’s is banking on several factors after creating a beverage division a couple of years ago.

First is the profile of the product itself. While many ready-to-drink coffees are loaded with sugar and calories, Peet’s Iced Espresso has a third less of each. As consumers shift to healthier lifestyles, it is an enticing option.

More specifically, however, are consumer behaviors. The ready-to-drink cold coffee category is broad and can be a place where people experience coffee for the first time. While Peet’s traditionally has focused on the heritage—the brand has been around for over 50 years—and craft nature of their product driven mainly through their shops, the new iced espresso offering is meant to fit into a consumer’s lifestyle.

“We talk about how consumers use the product,” Koch said. “It’s now more of a pick-me-up or a treat, and that’s how we’ve shifted the way we’re messaging.”

Indeed, the creative in the ads reflect the reward for a victory well earned, with Shlesinger savoring the moment she has overcome what turns out to be hilarious obstacles most people can relate to.

“I’ve always appreciated good advertising and the way a product connects with its audience,” said Shlesinger, who has some empathy for the craft after spending the early part of her career as a copywriter at an ad agency. “You can smell the BS when someone is being inauthentic.”

Ensuring that Shlesinger had a wide berth to work from was a crucial component of the campaign. While there were sketches of ideas, the brand and North knew leveraging the star’s natural gifts was imperative.

“A lot of times, working with talent from the entertainment industry, you don’t really know what you’re going to get,” said Mark Ray, North’s chief creative officer. “We knew that we wanted Iliza to improvise quite a bit and give her as much of a chance as possible to let her shine. After we did our first scene, everyone was laughing, and we realized very quickly that this was going to be awesome.”

To Ray, it came down to craft and knowing that Shlesinger would bring her signature work ethic to the project.

“Out of everybody we presented, I don’t think that there’s anybody that I felt was more prepared or committed to their craft than Iliza, and in the truest sense,” he said. “She works incredibly hard and is passionate about her craft.”

The ads will run on Shlesinger’s and Peet’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter channels.


Peet’s Coffee
VP / General Manager, Consumer Division: Tiffin Groff
Senior Director, Consumer Marketing: Gretchen Koch
Senior Manager of Marketing & Innovation, Beverages: Sandra Galvin
Senior Digital Marketing Manager: Natasja Cartan
Associate Marketing Manager: Dalia Sheedy

Chief Creative Officer: Mark Ray
Managing Director: Rebecca Armstrong
Creative Director: Kristina Day
Creative Director: Ashod Simonian
Producer: Bill Ballard
Talent Manager: Doug Williams
Senior Brand Manager: Erica Stenson
Director of Brand Strategy: Jordan Delapoer
Director of Media Strategy: Caroline Desmond
Performance Marketing Manager: Devon Brown
Media Planner: Izzy Kramer

Production Company: North
Director: Mark Ray
Producer: Bill Ballard
Director of Photography: Kevin Fletcher
1st AD: Damian Payne

Editor: Kelly Lyon
Audio: Chip Sloan / Digital One
Color: George Costakis / Pinata Post

Creative Consultant: Iliza Shlesinger

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.