Renowned ad critic Neil deGrasse Tyson should really be the one reviewing Skyy Vodka's new ads from Venables Bell & Partners, but we'll fill in for him this time.
The spots, which break Wednesday on TV, honor the brand's spirit (indeed, its very name) by looking to the heavens for inspiration. They take place in a kind of planetarium setting, where a spokesman entertains a raptly earnest TED-like crowd by pondering mundane issues of drinking etiquette through the grand lens of science and cosmology.
"With a little fresh thinking, the universe can be surprisingly smooth," the spokesman, played by improv actor Paul Welsh (who exudes a kind of arch Malkovichian charm), says in one spot—after explaining how apples and oranges (stand-ins for Mars and Venus, stand-ins themselves for men and women) can get along better in bars with the help of a third celestial body: the "wing lemon."
Another spot suggests tipping your bartender—portrayed here by a mouse in a maze getting a piece of cheese, and serving a tiny cocktail in return.
The new tagline is, "West of expected."
It's a quirky campaign for a quirky brand, whose unconventional views stem from its California roots. (In a market full of Old World brands, Skyy was launched in the Bay Area in the '90s.) And while sending up snobby cocktail culture with witty observations is hardly unconventional in alcohol ads these days, the agency believes these ads are unique enough to stand out—and are true to the brand's personality.
"In the industry as a whole, and especially vodka, everyone is trying to out-cool themselves and appeal to people's ego and vanity," says Will McGinness, executive creative director at VB&P. "We wanted to push off the industry norms and the Russian or Eastern European vodka companies and do our own thing and celebrate this different kind of vodka."
"In 1992, Skyy was born in San Francisco with the belief that everything can be made better with a little fresh thinking. It's how we created our vodka and the way we see the world," adds Kathleen Schuart, senior marketing director for white spirits and cordials at Campari America. "It's with this spirit that Skyy's new marketing platform is inviting us to take an optimistic view and reimagine the world around us. We are kicking off our campaign by challenging our thinking around the givens in our social lives, interactions and experiences in a fun and clever way."
The TV buy includes ESPN, FX, AMC, IFC, Bravo, Comedy Central, Logo, TBS, TNT, NBC and VH1. Digital includes Hulu, YouTube, Urban Daddy and Vice. Out-of-home ads will appear in markets including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Seattle, Milwaukee, Dallas, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., New Jersey and Boston.
Client: Skyy Vodka, Campari
Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Executive Creative Directors: Paul Venables, Will McGinness
Creative Director: Will McGinness
Associate Creative Director: Eric Boyd
Art Director: Alex Rice
Copywriter: Daniel Bonder
Director of Integrated Production: Craig Allen
Agency Executive Producer: Joyce Chen
Account Director: Robert Woods
Account Manager: Katie De La Hoya
Design Director: Cris Logan
Designer: Angie McDonald
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Mike Maguire
Director of Photography: Nigel Bluck
Executive Producers: Colleen O’Donnell, Shawn Lacy
Line Producer: Tracy Broaddus
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Matt Murphy
Visual Effects: The Mill
Visual Effects Producer: Kiana Bicoy
Telecine: Sean Coleman @ Company 3
Sound Design: Barking Owl
Sound Designer: Michael Anastasi @ Barking Owl
Mix: Loren Silber @ Lime Studios