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Business on the Move Spirits Whiskey

Irish whiskey brand Jameson is readying a brand refresh to make it ‘cool’ again

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By Sam Bradley, Journalist

July 18, 2023 | 4 min read

With new agency partner in tow, Jameson is planning a marketing blitz to build on a record sales period.

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Jameson has chosen Ogilvy as its global creative agency of record / Jameson

After hiring Ogilvy as its global creative agency of record, Jameson Irish Whiskey is planning a major ad campaign to build on its record sales performance.

Pernod Ricard subsidiary Irish Distillers, which produces Jameson, broke off a 20-year relationship with incumbent TBWA to switch to Ogilvy after a five month review managed by R3. The WPP agency will now handle creative and strategy for the distiller.

“We just felt we needed a new fresh look at the brand,” Brendan Buckley, global marketing director at Irish Distillers tells The Drum. The distiller was reluctant to invite new agencies in after its successful partnership with the Omnicom network, which competed for the work as incumbent.

TBWA\Dublin created Jameson’s most recent brand campaign, ‘The Drop’, which starred comedian Aisling Bea. Buckley says, “we worked with TBWA for 20 years and they were absolutely fantastic, they were amazing. But things change. I was loathe to do this but I felt at the end, in my heart, that we needed to have a look and get some fresh insight and fresh perspective,” he adds.

In addition to TBWA, Droga5, Publicis (which already holds the media account for Irish Distillers) and Wieden+Kennedy also pitched for the business. But Buckley says Ogilvy “surprised and delighted” the Irish brand with a plan to make the best-selling Irish whiskey on the market “cool”.

“We wanted someone who will step change how we communicate around Jameson. We’ve been very fortunate that we have a great brand that has succeeded for years, but we need a bit of a step change and Ogilvy brought that to us.”

Antonis Kocheilas, global chief executive at Ogilvy Advertising, said in a statement that the agency aimed to make Jameson “the world’s most shared spirit” through a campaign that made use of “borderless creativity.”

According to Buckley, the campaign in production by Ogilvy – due to be launched in November or after the new year – would be likely be “bigger than previous campaigns.”

Pernod Ricard, ID's parent firm, spent almost $1.9bn on advertising in 2022. It signalled earlier this year it expects to spend more on advertising.

Ad spend as a ratio of net sales in the first half of the 2023 financial year was 14%, chief executive Alexandre Ricard told investors back in February. The company said it would increase that another 2%, enabled more more precise return-on-investment measurements. ROI on Jameson campaigns in the US, for example, had grown 40% due to the use of data tool Matrix.

Jameson has already been a major beneficiary of the growth of the Irish whiskey category, of which it has a 67% market share. It recorded 10 million case sales in 2022, with particular growth in Nigeria, India and Zambia. Buckley, though, says it has its eyes on bourbon brands as its closest rivals.

“Globally, we pit ourselves against Jack Daniels and Bulleit,” he says, adding that its fine whiskey lines go up against premium scotch such as The Macallan. Sales in pubs and bars will remain the priority though. “Jameson is a big on-trade brand,” he explains.

Though the work is still in its early stages, Buckley says the aim is to make more consumers fans of its whiskey, while providing the brand with a major evolution. “Every single brand is always recruiting. But we wanted something that would bring a fresh thought to our essence. This may sound very corny – very marketing – but we have a very strong essence as a serious whiskey that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

“[Ogilvy] came up with an idea that frankly, myself and our CEO were blown away. They’ve taken the basics of Jameson and brought a fresh perspective.”

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