Ad execs are increasingly turning to alcohol, and neither stress nor Mad Men has anything to do with it. To better showcase their branding and marketing chops—and to add a secondary revenue stream—many agencies are launching their own liquor brands. "It's our job to be smart businesspeople first and strategic creative partners second," says Cory Isaacson, whose ad firm, Walton Isaacson, has conceived two different liquors in its six-year history (including Tequila Avion, which was effectively a recurring character on Entourage). "We have all this expertise, and the multiples in the spirits business are high. This is the future."
1. Tequila Avion
Agency: Walton Isaacson
"We wanted to create an attitude of 'aspirational discovery.' We were making a superpremium tequila and wanted people to find it and fall for it the same way early users did for the Mac. It's about furthering the agenda of consumers who see themselves as tastemakers." —Isaacson
2. Qui Tequila
"Many people are afraid of tequila because they've had bad experiences with it. But usually that
occurred in college with Jose Cuervo, a gold tequila. Clear spirits are smoother. So we said, Let's be crazy: Could we create the world's first clear extra anejo?" —Chris Vance, managing director
3. White Pike Whiskey
Agency: Mother New York
"We had tried some moonshines, and they were nasty—undrinkable and unmixable. But the idea of a clear spirit that's a whiskey, and mixable, was interesting to us. It was really just about making a unique product."
—Andrew Deitchman, cofounder
4. Tub Gin
Agency: Red Tettemer
"We started out by saying, 'Imagine if Quentin Tarantino made a gin.' We tried to give it a sense of humor but also have it be rough-and-tumble. When building a brand, it's important to not just focus on voice and imagery; you have to make the stuff communicate." —Steve Red, cofounder
So which branding agency created the best brand? According to Patricia Verdolino, a spirits branding expert from FutureBrand, it's Red Tettemer and Tub gin. "Tub does a good job at being transparent and telling a 'tall tale' backstory that you know is made up but is so charming that you want to believe it," she says. "It connects to your senses and leaves an imprint in your mind and heart." (Tub also performed best in a comprehensive taste assessment conducted by a panel of Fast Company boozehounds.)
A version of this article appeared in the March 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.