Wild Turkey takes 'Give 'em the bird' pitch to TV

Associated Press Published: May 1, 2012
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Wild Turkey's first-ever television ad campaign in the U.S. offers a new twist to giving someone the bird.

The 157-year-old brand is the latest Kentucky bourbon making a splash on television, showing the once-stodgy category has a sense of humor in projecting a more hip image.

It comes as bourbon rides a wave of popularity, due in part to the comeback of cocktails appealing to younger adults. And it's a sign bourbon is willing to muscle into the marketing terrain of vodka and other spirits.

In the ad debuting Tuesday, Wild Turkey spreads its "Give 'em the Bird" marketing campaign that first appeared in print and on billboards last year. The commercial shows a young bartender's reluctance to obey a seasoned barman's direction to "just give 'em the bird" when a tough-looking customer walks in. The novice soon realizes it's another term for serving up Wild Turkey.

"I come from Europe, where you normally order a gin and tonic and you don't care what gin you're drinking," said Umberto Luchini, head of marketing for Campari America, which owns Wild Turkey. "You come into the U.S. and it's all about calling brands. Hence, 'Give 'em the Bird' is another way of calling Wild Turkey in a bar."

The ad, running on such cable outlets as ESPN, Comedy Central, Spike, TNT and TBS, is the latest multimillion-dollar investment in Campari's revamping of the storied Wild Turkey brand made at its distillery near Lawrenceburg in central Kentucky.

It also adds momentum to the trend among some bourbon makers to turn increasingly to television and digital advertising.

"The stories that bourbon has as its heritage are really difficult to tell on a billboard, and really difficult to tell on a flat, two-dimensional piece of paper in print," said Kevin George, chief marketing officer for Beam Inc., parent of Jim Beam and Maker's Mark bourbons.

Wild Turkey's foray into television comes about a year after competitor Maker's Mark uncapped its first national TV campaign. Maker's Mark sales have risen consistently for years, and the TV ads are increasing brand awareness and demand, George said. So the brand has extended its pitch on more cable networks this year, he said.

Beam, based in Deerfield, Ill., also is running TV ads promoting its high-end Jim Beam Devil's Cut, featuring whiskey extracted from the aging-barrel wood that is blended with Jim Beam bourbon. In June, the company plans to go on TV to promote its Red Stag brand, a specialty whiskey that infuses natural black cherry flavors into bourbon, George said.

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