AlmapBBDO and Diageo start our year off with something fresh for Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker. It focuses on a woman and her partner in a small pod floating in space, anticipating imminent return into Earth's atmosphere.
This must always be a stressful moment for astronauts; there's always a possibility of something going wrong and being incinerated upon re-entry. But the short film suggests there are other reasons for the pair's bated breath.
The piece is a metaphor for the year we've just exited, wracked by chaos and waves of lockdown. The pod is not alone; there are scores of others, racing toward the planet like little comets. And when they penetrate the atmosphere, hundreds of parachutes blossom in the sky, gently descending on a planet devoid of humans.
A voiceover from astronaut John "Danny" Olivas punctuates the climax.
"Coming back means reliving everything again like it's the first time," he says as, after a brief expression of awe, our space traveler cuts to moments that feel to so many of us like a dream: drinks with friends, birthday parties, quiet moments with loved ones.
"The feeling is intense," Olivas continues. "Things once taken for granted now are savored. Life will be full of possibilities again. That's what I felt, and that's what you will feel. Take it from me: I'm astronaut Danny Olivas, and I know what it's like to be isolated from the world."
Watching the ad, we were reminded of a phenomenon called the Overview Effect, a shift in awareness resulting from the awe space travelers often feel when they see Earth from orbit, or the moon. The ability to not only intellectually "know" but actually see our tiny blue habitation, hurtling through space like so many other stars and stones, changes perceptions of personal identity and the planet, as well as the observer's sense of the future.
Here's a very pretty video about the Overview Effect.
This feels like an apt sum-up of what many people felt at varying points of lockdown, all over the world, based on so many of our #WFH Diaries. "I think we will all get a much better grasp on our concepts of humanity and community," Mareka Stake said in Amsterdam; in Paris, Dominika Haas, reflecting on her quarantine experience, expressed hope that "we will respect our planet and each other more, and be happier with what we have."
The ad also tugs on our hopes for 2021, when so many of us hope we really can eventually alight on our respective worlds again, crossing paths without fear, but infused with a greater wisdom about what matters. It concludes: "The next 200 years are just beginning. Keep walking."
"With this campaign, Johnnie Walker manages to uphold the 'Keep Walking' spirit and to take a step further in telling a 200-year story that has always been about looking at the future and the possibilities it brings," says Paula Costa, marketing vp at Diageo. "As it focuses on the value of the great small pleasures of everyday life, the movie inspires us all. It also relies on diversity, this contemporary imperative, featuring as protagonists a Black actress and a real astronaut of Mexican descent."
Scenes from outer space were partially recorded in a studio, using an LED screen to simulate the experience of being among the stars, with the same technology used for movies like Gravity. These were combined with CGI, and outdoor scenes were shot on the coastline in São Paulo, Brazil.
Product: Johnnie Walker
Campaign: Johnnie Walker 200 Years (Astronaut)
CCO: Luiz Sanches
ECD: Marcelo Nogueira
Creative Director: Fernando Duarte, Henrique Del Lama
Creative: Breno Ribeiro, Marcelo Pignatari Rosa
Agency Producer: Vera Jacinto, Diego Villas Bôas, Aline Silva
Artbuyer: Teresa Setti, Ana Cecilia
Account: Maysa Oliveira, Isabela Crestana, Patricia Nunes
Planning: João Gabriel Fernandes, Mariana Corradi, Janaina Agostini
Media: Daniel Ribeiro, Kristin Hendrickson, Fernanda Martins
Content: Chris Mello, Eduardo Nasi, Patrícia Colombo
Production Company: Iconoclast
Director: Ian Ruschel + Gabriel & Quemuel
Photo Director: Pierre de Kerchove, Edvaldo Raw
Pos Production: NASH
Sound Production: Jamute
Executive Sound Production: James Pinto
Clients: Gregorio Gutierrez, Paula Costa, Juliana Ballarin, Joao Victor dos Santos