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Interactive Annual 18:

Johnnie Walker
Gift Translator

Launch Movie

“Unique, creative and appropriate. The responses work in context with someone’s shopping experience—hysterical.”
—Kelly Goto

“Well-directed, clever, with a simple, easy-to-understand interaction, worked in banner ads as well as it did in larger formats—and, also, hysterical.” —Keith Butters

Overview: Men would rather stick bamboo shoots under their nails while starring in a remake of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants than express themselves. Especially to other men. That provided the insight behind the Johnnie Walker “Say it without saying it” holiday campaign. In a series of films, men gift bottles of Johnnie Walker, which expresses for them everything they can’t bring themselves to say. Online, The Gift Translator did the talking; placed on holiday gift guides the rich media banner gave instant feedback on gift recommendations. The interpretations were a dynamic and entertaining way to remind guys that every gift—not just Johnnie Walker—actually makes a statement.

  • • Three thousand specific keyword entries, a current eBay API model (that breaks gifts into categories) and more than 70 unique responses almost guaranteed that The Gift Translator would have an answer for whatever gift a user entered.
  • • Development time was a short four weeks—keywords were collected and responses were written in a single week.
  • • Thirty-three percent of users who engaged the banner entered a gift to be translated. Overall, the campaign boosted sales of Johnnie Walker Blue Label over 40 percent—their most dramatic sales spike in history.

Comments by Zach Hilder

How did your relationship with the client evolve over the course of the project? “This campaign was a dramatic departure from Johnnie Walker’s famous ‘Keep Walking’ effort. In fact, it was the first time the client had ever done a retail effort like this. While most luxury brands would never touch humor, they knew that to make a big impression—especially online—a shiny bottle shot wouldn’t do the trick. I really applaud them for taking the journey with us to use laughs to sell $300 bottles of whiskey.”

How did time constraints affect your final solution? “Unlike film, digital can always—and I mean, always—benefit from more time. More time programming. More time testing. More time praying for it to work! Ultimately with the holidays closing in, we had to put our pencils down at some point, but with an online generator, the bigger the database of keywords you create, the better the UX will be. We ended up in a great place, but really because of its very nature it will never be truly complete.”


Dylan Bernd/Burke Lauderdale, art directors
Zach Hilder, writer/associate creative director
Jorge Arteaga, graphic designer
Jon Pearce, executive creative director
Andrew King, Squarewave/Mike Wislocki, Squarewave, Flash programmers
Martin Mlekicki, producer
Shane Chastang/Abbe Hale, project managers
BBH New York (New York, NY), project design and development/ad agency
Johnnie Walker, client

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