Maker's Mark bourbon uncapped its first national television campaign Tuesday, releasing a series of whimsical commercials playing up its square bottles topped with the distinctive red wax seal.
The Kentucky bourbon maker chose the Discovery Channel to exclusively air its TV campaign. It cost "seven digits," the priciest promotional blitz in the brand's more than 50-year history.
Some of the 30-second ads show bottles of Maker's being hand dipped in a tub of red wax, a process still done by workers at its distillery in Loretto, a quiet, rural community 45 miles south of Louisville.
"We need to bring more of the brand experience to life, and that's very hard to do in a static billboard," said Kelly Doss, vice president of global marketing for Maker's Mark, part of the spirits lineup for Fortune Brands Inc.
Another ad shows strands of red wax waving in the breeze while the bottle is photographed in a take-off of a modeling gig. Another says the brand has resisted changing its look as the spot shows a buffed-up bottle of "Macho Mark."
The brand's national TV debut comes as Maker's surpassed 1 million cases bottled for the first time in 2010, when the bourbon maker introduced its first new product _ Maker's 46, a close cousin of the original but with a different aging method at the end.
The switch to TV reflects a shift from a focus on billboard advertising with clever pitches, often playing to a particular city.
For instance, a billboard in Los Angeles displays a Maker's bottle and says: "Handcrafted. Just like everyone else in L.A."
The brand also is pouring more money into print advertising. Overall, Maker's has increased its ad spending this year and plans to continue doing so, Doss said in a phone interview.
Doss said the TV ads will run mostly in prime time or later and are geared primarily toward men ages 25 to 49. The ad campaign will continue throughout the year, with a break during a stretch of summer, she said.
The Discovery campaign represents all of the Maker's television and online budget for 2011, according to a news release. But Doss said she expects Maker's to eventually branch out to other cable networks.