Wieden & Kennedy Wins Southern Comfort

New Campaign Coming as Brown-Forman Hikes Spending on Whiskey Liqueur

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Wieden & Kennedy, New York, is getting into the liquor business as the global agency for Southern Comfort, which is planning a big boost in media spending while unleashing a campaign this week.

The Big Apple office of the independent shop replaces Arnold Worldwide, which had held the Brown-Forman-owned brand since 2001. Arnold remains the agency for Jack Daniels. SoCo's relationship with Arnold ended months ago. In the interim, the brand had been working with crowd-sourcing agency Poptent on a project basis.

Mark Bacon, senior VP-managing director for Southern Comfort, said the brand went with Wieden & Kennedy without a formal review, making the switch to get "some new thinking on the brand, a set of fresh eyes and a fresh perspective."

While recent SoCo ads have been product-focused, the campaign by W&K is telling the story of the "attitude of the brand," he said. The tagline is "Whatever's comfortable."

"We're not asking drinkers to be something they are not. We're actually asking them to be themselves, just like Southern Comfort," Mr. Bacon said.

To that end, the planned TV spot is notable for its simplicity. It features a regular-looking man with a bit of a beer gut walking along a beach as the song "Hit or Miss" by 1960s-era folk singer Odetta plays in the background. Nothing else really happens, except the man is sipping a glass of SoCo by the end and a dog walks into the screen for a bit.

Neal Arthur, managing director at Wieden & Kennedy, contrasted the spot with other liquor ads that he said create "contrived images of the consumer."

The "consumer that we were talking to [is ] really just looking for the confidence and the appreciation for being as you are," he said. "We very intentionally tried to create work that isn't 'trying' and doesn't feel like it is contrived in any way."

The ad will make its debut online Tuesday night and on TV on Aug. 5, where it will air on cable outlets as well during late-night comedy programs on broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC. The media buy continues a trend of liquor brands moving aggressively to TV as marketers take advantage of a greater acceptance from national networks, which had historically shied away from hard-liquor ads.

All told, Southern Comfort plans to double its media spending for fiscal 2013, which began May 1. The brand spent $4 million on measured media in calendar year 2011, according to Kantar Media.

While Wieden & Kennedy, New York, has not previously worked with Brown-Forman, the agency's London office has an established relationship with the marketer, working on its Maximus and Finlandia vodka brands. Southern Comfort's top market is the U.S., while other targeted markets are Australia, U.K., South Africa and Germany.

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