Picture, if you will, corn, and lots of it, lovingly blended with flavoring grains such as rye, malted barley and wheat, mixed with water and cooked into a glistening mash, then aged in white oak barrels from two to 20 years.
That's how you make bourbon, and creative shop Cornett puts the process on display—with a dreamy acoustic soundtrack, but no narration or on-screen explainers—in a nearly eight-minute spot for the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau in Kentucky. The clip taps into the trend of "oddly satisfying" ASMR videos that sooth and delight through repetition. (Brands such as Coca-Cola, Ikea and, more recently, Noosa Yogurt and Red Food have also gone this route.)
For its part, VisitLEX offers a contemplative and at times hypnotic primer on the bourbon-making process—so much mash, sooo many barrels—shot at the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery just outside Lexington. At times, the spot attains a kind of visual poetry. The bourbon flows like a shimmering river, playful yet proud, enticing us to drink it all in:
Cornett and VisitLEX devised the campaign as a followup to last year's extremely successful "Neigh-SMR" initiative touting Kentucky's equestrian heritage. That ASMR sendup showed a horse chomping on vegetables for two minutes, and it garnered nearly 2 million YouTube views.
"We thought it could be fun to do something similar around Lexington's other unique offering, Kentucky bourbon," Cornett creative chief Whit Hiler tells Muse. Adopting the surprisingly satisfying motif felt right because such content often deals with manufacturing and factory processes, Hiler says. Of course, luring tourists is the goal, and VisitLEX believes the effort will help Kentucky surpass its record 1.4 million distillery visits from 2018, the last year for which stats are available.
Rather than present a rush of cascading images or raucous humor, the team chose to "experiment with a slower kind of advertising that's basically the opposite of what we're told ads should be," Hiler says. "We think it'll have broad appeal, too. Stressed out? Just take a few minutes and watch some bourbon being made. You don't have to be a bourbon drinker to appreciate how cool a big vat of bubbling mash looks."
Indeed, this fermentation process—as the yeast consumes sugars in the grain, producing ethanol and carbon dioxide—resembles a rippling sea on some alien world.
At any rate, such images are less crappy than Hiler's Kentucky Derby-boosting horse manure sell-off, that's for sure.
After developing a strict schedule to make sure they'd hit all aspects of bourbon-making (other than the barrel aging), the team shot for a single day at Buffalo Trace. John Buckman, a freelance videographer, served as director, DOP and editor, assisted by Cornett's Hiler and David Jones. (The camerawork is way more assured than what we saw in these VisitlEX spots, though in fairness, those commercials were filmed by horses.)
Along with posting the long-form version of "An Oddly Satisfying Bourbon Distillery Video" on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, Cornett will share edits via social with some paid media in the mix.
Client – VisitLEX
Agency – Cornett
Whit Hiler - Executive Creative Director
Jonathon Spaulding - Senior Copywriter
David Jones - Art Director
Leslie Miller - Director of Brand Management
Bailey Klutts - Assistant Account Planner
Alli Plata - Associate Copywriter
John Buckman - Director of Photography and Edit
Gathan Borden - Vice President Marketing at VisitLEX
"Seven Wonders" by Ziv Moran
"Walking in Forests" by Ben Winwood
Licensed through Artlist