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By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

September 8, 2021 | 5 min read

William Grant & Sons-owned whisky brand Monkey Shoulder has today unveiled a new national brand campaign starring The Soup and Community’s Joel McHale. In the new spot, shared exclusively with The Drum, McHale hits the streets of New York City to help daters drop the pretension and relax – preferably with a glass of Monkey Shoulder. The brand marketing initiative could bolster William Grant & Sons’s sales after it experienced pandemic-related setbacks.

In a new campaign for Monkey Shoulder whisky, actor, comedian and TV host Joel McHale attempts to make first dates less stuffy and more, well, relaxed.

“We want to encourage Scotch drinkers to drop the pretense and lighten up a bit,” Monkey Shoulder’s brand director Michael Giardina tells The Drum. “Our new campaign dramatizes that same ethos within a context that is relatable and ripe with pretense: first dates!"

From bitters to barrels of fun

The campaign, ‘Stick it to Stuck Up’, is headlined by a cheeky three-and-a-half minute spot in which Joel McHale urges us all to drop the snobbery – surrounding whisky as well as dating – and just enjoy ourselves. In the opening scene of the hero film, McHale is pictured in a leather sofa-clad drawing room sporting a plaid suit, crystal lowball glass in hand. He plays “a person who’s trying way too hard to impress you,” waxing poetic about the proper preparation for a Scotch whisky, before chucking the glass offstage and stripping down to a casual sweater. “To enjoy your whisky, you don’t need some guy with a handlebar mustache spewing a bunch of pompous tasting notes,” he quips.

McHale goes on to say that Monkey Shoulder believes that everyone should approach life – and dating – in the same way they enjoy whisky: “by not taking it too seriously.” To help people relax and drop the pretenses, McHale hits the streets of New York City in an effort to recruit first-daters to come with him and enjoy a more casual evening. After a number of failed attempts, McHale convinces a pair – who are about to walk into a ballet performance – to ditch the dancing and go with him to a wrestling match instead. Of course, the evening also includes drinking Monkey Shoulder.

Monkey Shoulder’s Giardina says McHale was the ideal frontman for the campaign, as the brand was able to “harness his quick sense of humor and charismatic personality to encourage daters to be themselves, stop trying so hard and just have some fun”.

Joel McHale with whisky

As a part of the initiative, daters have the chance to have McHale crash their first dates. Beginning at 9am ET today, daters can share stories of their most stuffy and stuck-up dating experiences at to enter the contest.

The spirit of recovery

Billed as “a Scotch that’s made for mixing”, Monkey Shoulder is owned by William Grant & Sons – whose portfolio includes Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Milagro Tequila and Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey. The new Monkey Shoulder campaign could help generate sales and accelerate William Grant & Sons’s recovery from the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis.

As was originally reported by Scottish Financial Review in December 2020, the company saw strong performance in 2020: profits grew 20.7% after tax and turnover growth hit 7.5% for the fiscal year ending December 31 2019. The company attributed these wins to growth of its core brands. However, in December of 2020, William Grant said these results “stand in stark contrast to the current performance in 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic causing major disruption for the business, the spirits industry and society as a whole”.

The company said at the time it anticipated it would see a profit loss of over 30% during 2020. Actual numbers cannot be confirmed since the company is privately held. However, brand marketing efforts such as the new Monkey Shoulder campaign – the brand’s biggest consumer-facing marketing effort in history – could help drive revenue.

It could also help build top-of-funnel brand awareness through the creative expression of the brand’s values. “Monkey Shoulder is a brand built on disruption – of the pretentiousness of the Scotch whisky category, but also of pretentiousness in general,” says Nicholas Rotondi, creative director at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, the creative agency behind the campaign. “Our preference is loyalty to the self over loyalty to tired industry paradigms, so our goal was to empower this mentality of personal authenticity with whisky drinkers en masse, through the lens of first dates.”

‘Stick it to Stuck Up’ launches today across social channels. The campaign will also run across the digital dating space and will include custom Tinder ads made in conjunction with The Infatuation and YouTube for users who are looking for bars, restaurants and date-night activities.

Joel McHale with whisky

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