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Does Woodford Reserve's Bourbon Ad Liberate or Discriminate?

Marketer Defends Campaign That Debuted on 'Mad Men'

By Published on . 5

Woodford Reserve bourbon debuted its first-ever TV campaign during AMC's "Mad Men" on Sunday night. And by Monday morning, the Brown-Forman-owned brand was already dealing with charges that the debut ad is sexist.

The spot features a female voice-over explaining her feelings when she sees a man drinking bourbon and how she expects him to be "the kind who can build me a bookshelf." The line causing the most debate is her assertion that "he'll let me use the saw and not find it cute that I don't know how to use the saw."

Among those complaining on Twitter was Kat Kinsman, managing editor of CNN's food blog, Eatocracy.

But Biba Konieczna, Brown Forman's group brand director overseeing bourbon and Canadian whiskies, said critics are missing the point. "The whole line is about not patronizing the woman because she doesn't know how to use the saw. It's about men not finding it 'cute' the fact that she cannot use a saw."

She stressed that "this is a campaign that has been largely created by women. The copy was written by a woman … and the photography was done by a woman and a lot of team members … we are women."

The agency is Fallon, Minneapolis, which was named the lead agency for the premium bourbon brand late last year. The campaign is meant to celebrate the types of people who embody the "Woodford Way."

The female voice in the debut ad, Ms. Konieczna said, is "defining in a way her expectations towards men … and the fact that he is real and can create real things. So I do not think the ad was sexist in any way."

But is it effective? Gawker -- in true Gawker form -- snarked that the ad was "weird" and "baffling the entire nation."

Ms. Konieczna declined to comment on the Gawker post. But she said "we are happy that there is discussion and there is a conversation about our ads and also that there is a conversation about the role of women and whiskey advertising." One of the goals of the campaign, she said, is to "give women a voice as bourbon drinkers."

The campaign includes another ad that uses a male voice. "When I see a woman drinking bourbon," he says, "I imagine she knows how to tell a story to a table full of people without giving up full possession of the details. Because then it would be their story, not hers."

The campaign -- which includes six videos -- will run through May, including ads that will run during NBC's broadcast of the Kentucky Derby. All of the ads can be viewed here.

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