Advertising & Marketing

Tribute to Keep Walking demonstrates the power of emotion

By now you may well have seen the video titled ‘Johnnie Walker – Dear Brother’. In spite of the title, it is not an ad commissioned by the fine folks at Diageo, but originates from Dorian Lebherz & Daniel Titz and the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg. However, the video is as compelling as anything produced for the lauded ‘Keep Walking’ campaign and left me reflecting on why.

If you have not seen Dear Brother, now would be a great time to take a look. There is no point in me describing the evocative scenes when you can simply watch them for yourself. Based on my own reaction, that of professional observers, and that of the commentators on YouTube I suspect you will find the experience worthwhile.

So, I assume that you found the video moving in some way. By moving I mean that you experienced some emotion while watching it. Which is strange because you know it is not real, right? It is a story. It is made up. But something about that story gets us to suspend our disbelief and get drawn into the narrative to experience the feeling of connection, melancholy and finally reconciliation. (The ad reminded me of the sad-vertising debate of several years ago. I would love to see what facial coding would have to tell us about the flow of emotion in the video.)

Interviewed by AdFreak, Dorian Lebherz suggests that the story is based on ‘Keep Walking’ and that Daniel Titz and he wanted to create an emotional story. Referencing the brand’s current campaign which goes by the title ‘Joy Will Take You Further’ and features celebrities in a series of different clips, Lebherz states,

“We think that a visually told story that creates emotions is always stronger than just showing different settings without storytelling.”

Well that is certainly the case for ‘Dear Brother’, but why? My belief is that it is because the audience is left to interpret the action for themselves. The video delivers an impression not a message, and leaves much to the imagination. What is that ruin? Did they grow up there? How did the brother die? In spite of being a made-up story feels authentic; true to what it is to be human. As a result, we identify with the emotions portrayed by the actors and the story resonates in a way that so many ads do not.

One last thought which anyone involved in advertising would do well to note; the Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking’ campaign was the inspiration for the video but, perhaps because it was not being produced as an ad, the brand is seamlessly integrated into the flow of the story; it is not forced or an afterthought; the brand has a natural role within the story.


Written by Nigel Hollis,Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown 

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