Dewar’s Gets Serious (And Seriously Scottish) About The Next Generation Of Drinkers

The 166-year-old blended Scotch Whiskey stakes its claim to the young’uns by getting very Scottish.

Dewar’s is a perfectly enjoyable scotch whiskey. It’s nothing fancy; it doesn’t aspire to be. But it does want to be desired by young drinkers who are just discovering brown spirits, and that’s become increasingly tough: As whiskey’s popularity rises, Dewar’s hasn’t run a TV ad since 2007 while competitors like Jameson and Johnny Walker have caught attention with aggressively off-kilter campaigns. So what’s a scotch to do? Fall back on the ol’ scotch plan: Do something that seems somehow really Scottish.


And oh, has Dewar’s got some Scottish action for you.

The new campaign from Opperman Weiss, which launches this week, is built upon spots with a recurring setup: You’re taken through urban decay, point-of-view style, and end up in the company of British actress Claire Forlani–except here, she has a heavy Scottish accent and a keen interest in trouble. She’s like a Bond villain. She lectures you with riddles that are just on the verge of insightful, like, “Are you ready to take life seriously? Because serious, it’s not always easy. But it comes with serious benefits.” Then she claws the top of a bottle of Dewar’s–it’s the same every time, a twist of the cap that sounds like knuckles cracking–and it’s not clear if she wants to sleep with you, or murder you, or both, and not necessarily in that order.

Dewar’s has different intentions, of course. It sees Forlani (or at least, her character) as a queen among men, and her speech as a siren song for the 25- to 29-year-old set. “This is really advice from the icon going out to a younger consumer in a language that this consumer can really identify with,” says Dewar’s VP and brand managing director, Arvind Krishnan. It’s the company’s argument to young guys who think of scotch as a crotchety drink–guys who, Krishnan says, respond to “irreverence, wit, and wisdom.” And apparently, salty lectures.

The first spot ends with Forlani, a Dewar’s-filled glass near her mouth, looking off camera and scolding an invisible presence: “Go back to sleep, Angus darling,” she says. Other spots end similarly, with Angus being put in his place. And who’s Angus? “Angus is a story that we will pick up as we progress this campaign,” Krishnan says, “that we will unveil primarily in digital. So stay tuned.” Though staying tuned, it’s not always easy. We’ll see what serious benefits it comes with.

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Senior editor at Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter @heyfeifer.