Maker’s Mark Pours First National Ad Buy

Taps Discovery as exclusive home for four animated spots

Maker’s Mark is uncorking its first national TV campaign, prepping a series of ads that will air exclusively on Discovery Channel starting May 10.

At the heart of the distiller’s push into TV are four animated spots designed to reflect Maker’s unpretentious profile and authenticity–rarities in an age when Sean “Diddy” Combs hawks vodka made from grapes between Kardashians episodes.

As cooked up by Doe-Anderson of Louisville, Ky., the ads infuse the sophisticated bourbon brand with a little whimsy. One spot lampoons the fripperies of the fashion industry, while another takes a subtle dig at rivals like Crown Royal and Woodford Reserve

Tagged “It is what it isn’t,” the first spot will bow during Discovery’s top-rated Deadliest Catch. Subsequent ads are slated to run in the series premiere of Swamp Brothers (May 13), as well as upcoming episodes of the renewed strips Man vs. Wild, Auction Kings, and Gold Rush. The ads are scheduled to run on Discovery Channel through the end of the year.

In the run-up to selecting a TV partner, Maker’s held a beauty contest with a handful of cable networks, including ESPN and truTV.

“It was a matter of winner takes all. We’d either get this nice piece of business or we wouldn’t,” says Discovery ad sales president Joe Abruzzese.

The Maker’s initiative also marks a significant milestone for Discovery, as it stands as the network’s most expansive deal with a spirits brand. The commercial that will premiere in the Swamp Brothers telecast was actually produced in-house by Discovery Studios.

“Anytime you have a first-time client, the experience just lends itself to a lot of research,” says Jocelyn Egan, svp, Discovery Solutions. “We’re going to pay close attention to how the ads perform. Certainly, we hope to renew the deal.”

The Discovery pact represents the bourbon brand’s largest financial commitment to an advertising campaign and accounts for 100 percent of its total video (TV and online) budget for 2011. All told, Maker’s Mark is expected to spend some $25 million in measured media this year, the lion’s share of which will be allocated toward print and out-of-home.

Ads for brown liquors have begun pouring into TV of late. Maker’s move to TV follows on the heels of Jack Daniels’ first on-air spot; in a bid to whip up interest in its new Tennessee Honey whiskey product, the distiller has bought time in TNT and ESPN’s coverage of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

The liquor industry restricts its TV buys to reach a 21-and-over audience. According to these rules, at least 70 percent of the audience must be of legal purchasing age. Maker’s is shooting for 85 percent.