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CUTTY SARK SAILS INTO HIGH-TECH HIRAM WALKER BLENDS HISTORY WITH VIRTUAL REALITY GAME

By Published on .

It's "Yo, ho, ho" and a bottle of Cutty Sark scotch as Hiram Walker & Sons moves a virtual reality game into the center of a new $10 million campaign. Designed to appeal to a new generation of prospects and rekindle stagnant sales, the campaign is linked to one of marketing's most extensive uses of virtual reality. The high-tech promotion begins in May and will call on the legend of one of Cutty Sark's Prohibition-era smugglers, Capt. William McCoy, as he delivers "the real McCoy." That bit of history will serve as the foundation of an 18-month promotional tour and accompanying ad campaign from Scaros & Casselman, Stamford, Conn.

"It isn't that we want Cutty Sark to be perceived as virtual reality scotch. Our intent is to tell the story, so the brand is associated with `the real McCoy,'*" said Andy Nagelbach, brand manager. "If people experience the story, it will become more real and part of their lives."

In addition to the game, Cutty Sark late this month will break ads in Sports Illustrated and Sail, including a four-page Cutty Sark Collection of nautical gear and sailing clothes. Outdoor boards also support.

While other brands, including Bubble Yum bubble gum and Pepsi-Cola, have used virtual reality promotions, this is the first time a virtual reality game was designed from the ground up for a specific marketer's needs.

Seizing on Cutty Sark's seagoing image, the 21/2-minute game, which cost $1 million to develop, will let bar and liquor store patrons try to pilot the captain's ship Are-thusa filled with cases of Cutty Sark through gales, attacking seaplanes and pirates to a Long Island harbor.

"It's highly sophisticated. It will create tremendous excitement," said Dean Scaros, ceo of Scaros & Casselman, which won the creative account for Cutty Sark in December.

The game is based on Cutty Sark's history. During the height of Prohibition in the 1920s, the captain delivered Cutty Sark from Bermuda to the U.S. Because much of the scotch available at the time was so-called "bathtub scotch," the captain's goods were dubbed "the real McCoy."

The game was developed by virtual reality company Horizon Entertainment, St. Louis, which also handled Bubble Yum's virtual reality mall tour last summer.

Whether the Cutty Sark brand name will appear in the game hasn't been determined, said Gregg Rotenberg, director of special projects at Horizon, though the "shell" in which the game is played will prominently feature the name.

Two copies of the game will go on the road in May and will appear at up to 600 events. While only one player can play at a time, a 4-by-8-foot platform and view screens will let other people in on the play er's battle.

Hiram Walker is hoping the high-tech game will help raise interest in Cutty Sark, which has suffered as scotch sales have slipped in recent years.

Last year Cutty Sark, the country's No. 6 scotch, shipped 415,000 cases, a 1.2% increase, according to The Maxwell Consumer Report, but down 31.4% from the 605,000 cases it shipped in 1984. Cutty Sark has a 3.7% share of the market.

Mr. Nagelbach said virtual reality also helps Cutty Sark appeal to a new generation of drinkers.

Because the game will only be in liquor stores and bars, the company isn't concerned about any potential appeal to minors.

"We are not going to game arcades; it's not a question of playing games," Mr. Scaros said. "We are inviting people to experience new technology."

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