Four years ago on election eve, Johnnie Walker grabbed headlines with “Keep Walking America.” The ad, which included an English and Spanish voiceover of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," was widely seen as a subtle rebuke to Donald Trump’s border policies.
This Election Day, the Diageo-owned brand is back with another spot, which is less overtly political but still carries progressive themes. The ad features Brittany Howard, best known as lead singer for rock band Alabama Shakes, performing a remake of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The show tune debuted in 1945 in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel.” But the song, with its theme of hope and resilience, has gained increased relevance this year as an unofficial anthem for taking on tough times during COVID. (For a full look at the song’s evolution, check out this piece in The New York Times.)
The ad is by Anomaly New York, which was also behind the 2016 election spot. While the 2020 ad does not take on a hot button-issue like immigration, the spot has undertones that appear to make it more appealing to blue-state America. The idea of “hope” has of course long been a part of the lexicon of Democrats, most notably linked with Barack Obama. In a statement to Ad Age, Sophie Kelly, senior VP of whiskies at Diageo, downplayed any political angle.
“It’s no secret that for many, optimism, unity and celebration have been in short supply in 2020, so we simply wanted to put out a powerful song, with powerful lyrics, sung by a powerful artist, that at its core is about hopefulness and celebrating the enduring human spirit to keep walking through whatever uncertainty may lie ahead.”
The ad will run on MSNBC today with the buy also including other networks in the coming weeks to “ensure reach across a wide audience,” according to a brand representative.