JWT, Baileys Set for Network Debut

J. Walter Thompson is creating TV spots for Diageo’s Baileys Irish Cream, in anticipation that the liqueur will become the first spirits brand to advertise on national network TV, sources said.

Baileys, which previously ran TV spots on cable and network affiliates, is preparing both a “social-respon si bil ity” spot and a brand one, said sources. The former, which is required under new guidelines from NBC—the first network to agree to run spirits ads—is slated to air in mid-April, sources said. The latter will break after that.

JWT, here, is said to be in pre-production on the spots, which were approved by the client and NBC at the script stage, sources said. Creative development began last year, and the work is said to carry a tagline.

A description of the work could not be determined.

JWT declined comment, and a Diageo representative declined to discuss specific ad plans.

“We have our guidelines and our strategy in place for our own advertising agenda,” said Gary Galanis, a Diageo rep. “We will move forward in a socially responsible manner.”

The Baileys effort comes as NBC deflects criticism of its move to accept spirits ads, which was borne of negotiations with Diageo. (Another network, CBS, is now said to also be talking to Diageo—a notion that CBS denies.) Opponents include the Amer ican Medical Association and some Washington lawmakers. Perhaps to counter criticism, the network has hired Shepardson Stern + Kaminsky [Adweek, March 4], which specializes in corporate communications.

The opportunity for new revenue has sparked the interest of networks, which previously steered clear of spirits ads. And although the first ads will receive intense scrutiny, both liquor marketers and NBC seem willing to take the risk.

“We are a $350-400 million ad category, and we are up for grabs,” said Frank Coleman, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., an industry lobby group. It’s unclear why Diageo picked Baileys to break the network barrier. Sources speculated that a soft image and relatively low alcohol content—17 percent by volume—contributed to the decision.

Previous TV ad efforts for Baileys were set in bars and targeted women. Radio ads from this year positioned Baileys as an everyday drink not unlike, say, chardonnay.