Johnnie Walker Goes Walking After Midnight in New Year’s Eve Ad Filmed on a Moving Stage

Inside BBH's single-take spot

Headshot of Tim Nudd

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.




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

Production: Academy/Reset

Director: Us

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

Composers: Human

Executive Producer: Kit Winter

Audio Mixing: Sound Lounge

Mixer: Tom Jucarone/ Rob D.

Producer: Mike Guillo

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.