Mila And Jim, In The Distillery

“I’ll take potent potables ‘n strange celebrity brews for $200, Alex.”

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.”

10 comments about "Mila And Jim, In The Distillery".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, March 19, 2014 at 9:03 p.m.

    I don't know. I have a problem with the authenticity of the spots. She's just too damn good looking. You are right about one thing, the correct terminology is to refer to that person as Mila Kunis' boyfriend. Not the other way around.

  2. George Parker from Parker Consultants, March 19, 2014 at 9:33 p.m.

    Oh dear... "Questions" was such a sad "homage" to the Johnny Walker "Keep on Walking" video with Robert Carlyle... Who is a genuine Scot. Unlike Mila who was born in Russia... OK, the bit that's under dispute right now... The Ukraine... But wouldn't she be a better "Global Brand Ambassador Creative Director" for a vodka brand?
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

  3. Claudia Reilly from none, March 19, 2014 at 11:19 p.m.

    It's brilliant to use a beautiful female designed to appeal to women as well as men through her interest and knowledge instead of using a female who is only trying to lure men in. I've never understood why so many makers of alcohol act as if women don't drink...or buy cars...or go to movies...or buy anything!

    And your last 3 paragraphs are so fabulous.

  4. Ruth Thomas from Second helping, March 20, 2014 at 8:07 a.m.

    People love to hate the beautiful celeb, but if it wasn't what people wanted to see, or if it wasn't what sold product, it wouldn't be used year after year.. She can get all "deep with the history and the facts" but she is Mila Kunis, Ashton's girlfriend and beautiful star...that's why she is the spokesperson and not my next door neighbor, Wendy, who seems to drink Jim Beam all day

  5. Michael E. Keenan from Keenan & Company, March 20, 2014 at 9:11 a.m.

    Kunis/Kutcher niff-naff aside, couching in some history to build narrative - traditionally a key ingredient in good beverage alcohol brand building - is a smart component.

  6. Nancie Martin from Tell My Story, March 20, 2014 at 12:54 p.m.

    I did some work for a bourbon brand's PR agency a few years back. It's all about process and heritage (the bourbon story, not the agency). The taste is almost irrelevant at first, and becomes more relevant the longer a consumer has been drinking bourbon.

    BTW, the only cocktails in Mad Men that interest me are the martinis.

  7. Barbara Lippert from, March 20, 2014 at 1:22 p.m.
    didn't have room to get into this, but here is the little film about Mila and Fred Noe, the great-grandson of JIm Beam who is the zen bourbon master there.. She was schooled by him. If only his name were Fred Noe Beam!

  8. Jo Duran from BOM, March 20, 2014 at 8:17 p.m.

    Considering the tag...making history. I would be drawn to a tbt like montage with sepia tones showing a dad at family gatherings toasting great moments in life. Kunis=Meh!

  9. Jim English from The Met Museum, March 23, 2014 at 4:20 p.m.

    Funny to see Civil War references ("Questions"). Did not think history would be selling point to Gen-Xers or Millennials.

  10. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, March 26, 2014 at 8:26 p.m.

    Well, it would be nice if two years from now, she re-visited her batch. Or six months from now, siphoned some out and tasted it and saw how it was aging. And then periodically re-tested it and saw that the taste was improving or not.

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