Answer: “The Ukraine, 'That ‘70s Show,' and Jim Beam Whiskey.”
The Question: "Who is Mila Kunis?"
There is a bit of history to be made in the fact that the actress Mila Kunis has become the latest spokesperson -- and the first woman -- to promote Jim Beam whiskey.
But what I like about the ads -- part of the company’s new "Make History" campaign -- is that she’s not playing the sexed-up enchantress at all. Rather, Kunis, who came to the U.S. from the Ukraine at age 7, is shown immersing herself in the whole mashup of the mash. She hangs out in the hot, dry Rickhouse where the bourbon is aged in barrels, as part of the 219-year-old bourbon-making process, in exactly the same way that your more typical spokespick, a craggy-faced hipster with a three-day beard, would. (Think previous spokesman: Willem Dafoe.)
In short, Kunis told Marie Claire magazine that by dint of spending time in Clermont, Kentucky at the Jim Beam distillery, she got so into the traditions and heritage that she was “drunk for two days.”
She does have a great face and a sexy voice, and that is made use of, but she is more than that. Kunis, who played the wonderfully creepy, evil understudy, Lily, in the movie “Black Swan,” is more an embodiment of the renaissance of cool for the brown stuff.
Yup, whiskey has made a comeback, and sales are booming both in the U.S. and globally.
Some of this is due to the popularity of "Mad Men"-style old-fashioned cocktails. Then there’s the “small batch” approach (just like artisanal coffees, wine and beer), and the fact that bourbon is sweeter than whiskey, and Gen-Xers and Millennials are used to sweeter drinks. Or perhaps hard times call for stronger spirits.
The campaign encompasses print, digital and retail marketing, and three TV commercials.
My favorite is the most stripped-down and unadulterated, called “Branding Iron.” It shows Mila in the Rickhouse, in a work uniform, talking about how Jim Beam ages bourbon twice as long as they have to by law. And she also forges her own “Mila” stamp on a barrel that will sit for four years. It’s simple, and even mystical -- but also, showing all that fire, literally smokin.' By contrast, Questions" -- the most lavishly produced spot, showing her in period garb, as she walks and talks her way through major moments in the brand’s past -- is a bit forced. Still, it’s visually interesting, and the history is lively, including references to Prohibition and the Civil War (when Kentucky distillers would often get visits from Union and Confederate troops on successive nights.)
The campaign is the brainchild of Scott Goodson at Strawberry Frog, who put together a consortium of agencies called Future Works, including Strawberry Frog in New York, Jung von Matt in Hamburg, Germany, and The Works, in Australia to handle the worldwide effort.
Notice that I made it almost all the way to the end without mentioning Mila’s fiancé, what’s his name. (Ashton Kutcher.) They have the world’s cutest celebrity nuptial story, in that they played boyfriend and girlfriend when she was a mere adolescent on “That ‘70s Show.” Obviously, their engagement can’t hurt for the brand.
Here’s the honest–to-goodness headline that ran recently in the Latin Post, not The Onion: “Mila Kunis Jim Beam Ad Campaign: Ashton Kutcher's Girlfriend Becomes the Face of Whiskey Brand.”
Guess they didn’t get the memo about “Making History.”