One of the great ads of the past decade was the 2009 Johnnie Walker spot, filmed in a single take, with the brilliant Robert Carlyle telling the brand's history while strolling in the Scottish Highlands. Now, the whiskey brand and BBH have crafted another captivating single-take spot—a year-end meditation that looks forward, rather than backward, by showing a man walking through his dreamlike vision of 2015.
Conceptually strong, it was also intriguing executed—it was filmed like a stage play, but on a moving set, which allows the hero to walk through the scenery of his future while the camera essentially stays in place.
"New Year's Eve is a cultural moment we could leverage both strategically and creatively," said Gerard Caputo, group creative director at BBH New York. "It felt like a great opportunity to remind people that we should actually be looking ahead and celebrate the things to come."
COPYWRITING: The voiceover copy came first. "The first step of a new year," says a male voice. "We'll all take one. But where will a step take you? How high could you climb? And how far? A step can be a difficult thing. It requires courage and spirit. But if you follow it, imagine the places you'll go. The new year begins with the next step. How far will it take you?"
The hero is seen first at a 2014 New Year's Eve party. The lights suddenly go down, and he begins walking to the right (as the rolling sets roll left). He strolls down a street with neon signs in Chinese; enters a mens' wear store; exits an airplane; walks across a conference-room table during a meeting; and eventually leaps through darkness to a 2015 New Year's Eve party.
"Each scene was written to symbolize key moments we all hope to experience as we look forward to a new year," said BBH copywriter Mikio Bradley. "All of us want to experience new cultures, travel, make career moves, take more risks."
The camera pans up to the sky, where fireworks pop. "Here's to 2015," says on-screen text. "How will you #KeepWalking in 2015?"
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor, who direct together as Us, filmed in Romania on a set that took three weeks to build. "The timing had to be absolutely perfect," said Caputo. "They had a 40-meter set moving down an 80-meter track, with an 8-meter treadmill running through the middle of it."
They did some 50 takes in three days. "It really didn't start to come together until the final takes," said Bradley. "[The directors] have learned that patience is key, and with each take the film builds. So we had faith they would get it."
"It was our intention to make it look like a stage play," added BBH art director Klara Lindberg. "We wanted people to feel like they could be watching the story unfold live."
TALENT: The actor's name, coincidentally, is Oliver Walker. "Given the amount of takes we would need, it required great acting ability as well as the physicality to do it over and over," said Lindberg. "After the first day, we realized how lucky we were to find him."
SOUND: The soundtrack, by Human, is quietly inspiring and builds to a crescendo. "It really helps convey the emotional power of what we were going for," said Bradley. "The sound design is there to accent the scenes and help communicate where he is on his journey. We wanted the ending to feel upbeat and celebratory."
MEDIA: The spot rolled out online Dec. 4. It will air on TV from Dec. 22 through early January.
BEHIND THE SCENES:
Client: Johnnie Walker
President, Diageo North America: Peter McDonough
Senior Vice President, Marketing: Alex R. Tomlin
Brand Director, Scotch: Brian Radics
Senior Brand Manager: Jason Fournier
Senior Manager, Consumer Planning: Alina Koyfman
Associate Brand Manager: Milly Shome
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Chief Creative Officer: John Patroulis
Group Creative Director: Gerard Caputo
Creative – Copywriter: Mikio Bradley
Creative – Art Direction: Klara Lindberg
Head of Integrated Production & Technology: Carey Head
Head of Content Production: Kate Morrison
Senior Content Producer: Abbie Noon
Associate Producer: AJ Gutierrez
Head of Account Management: Armando Turco
Account Director: Miles Burton
Account Manager: Heather Livengood
Strategy Director: Mark Aronson
Head of Business Affairs: Sean McGee
Business Affairs: Shaunda Slade
Managing Partner/EP: Dave Morrison
Executive Producer: Jeff McDougal
Head of Production: Amanda Clune
Producer: Medb Riordan
Director of Photography: Alex Barber
Production Designer: David Lee
Editorial: Rock Paper Scissors
Editor: Ted Guard
Assistant Editor: JK Carrington
Executive Producer: Eve Kornblum
Producer: Jenny Greenfield
Telecine/ Post Production: The Mill
Colorist: Fergus McCall
Producer: Alex Fitzgerald
Flame Artist: Richard Lyons
Original Music: Human
Executive Producer: Kit Winter
Audio Mixing: Sound Lounge
Mixer: Tom Jucarone/ Rob D.
Producer: Mike Guillo