Matthew McConaughey Unveils Wild Turkey Campaign

By now everyone has heard the news that Matthew McConaughey has taken on a new role as the Creative Director for one of the bastions of the bourbon industry: Wild Turkey.

Matthew McConaughey Wild Turkey Commercial Launch Header

By now everyone has heard the news that Matthew McConaughey has taken on a new role as the Creative Director for one of the bastions of the bourbon industry: Wild Turkey. As will happen with any celebrity endorsement, there are fans and there are skeptics; but here I will focus on what you need to know about the new campaign.

On Wednesday, September 7th, Wild Turkey, and parent company Campari released the first commercial fully helmed by McConaughey. The spot premiered at an uber-hip hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Brooklyn because “it’s so hot right now”) at a media-heavy party complete with a Wild Turkey bar and barrel décor galore. The new ad was introduced by both Bob Kunze-Concewitz, CEO of Campari (it’s clear the Italian parent company is dedicated to their investment in bourbon) and McConaughey. A Q&A panel including McConaughey, Kunze-Concewitz, Jimmy Russell and Eddie Russell followed the showing.

What You Need to Know:

  • The 30-second spot released on Wednesday is act 1 of 3 of a, what I can only assume (McConaughey would not hint at what the next installations would yield), is a complete story.
  • There was a push to make clear that McConaughey is not the “pretty face” spokesman, but the “Creative Director” aka “Chief Storyteller” of Wild Turkey’s new marketing campaign. This means he will write, direct, and star in every spot. He will choose the music, theme, and overall feel of the campaign.
  • The new tagline is “It’ll Find You” with a subtext of “Real Bourbon, No Apologies.”
  • The spot features the line “If it’s for you, you’ll know” venturing to create a sense of exclusivity and “in-the-know” attitude for a brand generally seen as very accessible.
  • Music is key to the new campaign. The new spot features the Hot 8 Brass Band out of New Orleans who McConaughey handpicked for the ad. Music will play a large role in the campaign in general. I just hope that the next installment will feature a Bluegrass band, as it doesn’t get more authentic than that.
  • Magical realism – playing with time and space – also features heavily in the first spot and this was intentional. The ad focuses on destination and the journey of the glass of Wild Turkey from the bar, through vignettes of revelry and into the piano-playing hands of McConaughey.
  • So far, they haven’t forgotten about the heart and soul behind the brand: Jimmy and Eddie Russell. The father-son bourbon-making duo feature prominently in the documentary-style video released at the end of July and they were front and center during the release of this first short ad.
  • One major goal of the campaign is to “connect to Millennials.” However, as is always the case in such a campaign, what that means in up to interpretation as Millennials (of which I am one) is a difficult concept to define well. As McConaughey said, people are asking for “the authentic bourbon” so convincing Millennials that Wild Turkey is “authentic bourbon” is a driving force behind the campaign.
  • Though not shown in the commercial, Wild Turkey is eager to make the pivot into cocktail culture, presumably to also cater to the Millennial crowd. The bar at the release party was all cocktail, and neat/rocks pours were not advertised, despite the bar prominently featuring the full line-up of Wild Turkey products (minus the Russell’s Reserve and American Honey lines). The menu featured an Old Fashioned, a Boulevardier (no doubt to increase sales of Campari’s signature product, but also my favorite drink), a Cherry Fix, and a Southern Buck (a Wild Turkey version of a classic cocktail featuring lemon and ginger beer). All are classic cocktails and there was definitely something for everyone. Eddie Russell was even on message with this, responding to the question “How do you like to drink your whiskey?” with a “I love a good cocktail, especially a Boulevardier” which is “good for both us [Wild Turkey and Campari].”

The new commercial is sexy, visceral, loud, and really beautifully produced. I will be interested to see what response it garners from the non-bourbon-loyalist crowd, as this is the market Wild Turkey is eager to tap in to. And if it doesn’t work out, as Jimmy says, “we are going to be stuck with a whole hell of a lot of bourbon and there’s worse things to be stuck with.”