Recruiting Clooney To Sell Wine

Clooney Seeing that this year's 30-second Super Bowl ads cost $2.8 million – $3 million a pop got me thinking about the prospects for wine were it to find a way to expose itself to the hordes gathered to celebrate…whatever it is the Super Bowl celebrates. I quickly determined to my own satisfaction that the Super Bowl probably isn't the best venue to launch a generic wine campaign.

However, there's no reason to think that a Non-Superbowl, generic TV campaign for wine wouldn't work if it were properly conceived, shown to high value targets, and was kept so simple that nothing about the TV ads could be called "confusing", "complicated", "intimidating", "Feminine", "cute" or "pretentious".

There must be, I think, certain criteria met for such a campaign to get off the ground and be successful:

1. Every sector of the wine industry would need to pitch in (wineries, retailers, importers, wholesalers)

2. No region and no variety and no country should be highlighted

3. The TV creative must translate seamlessly into a print and on-line campaign.

Then there is the obvious question: What kind of content and messaging for a generic ad campaign for wine would be likely to increase consumption? I think the answer is STARK SIMPLICITY, DELIVERED THROUGH RESPECT-INDUCING ENDORSEMENTS.

What do I mean?

I mean a series of TV Commercials, print ads and on-line ads that have famed Americans declaring simply: "I Drink Wine"

Nothing more. White background. White foreground. White Table. Bottle of unidentified wine and a glass on the table. A famed American walks to the table silently. Opens the Wine. Pours the wine. Looks into the camera and declares: "I DRINK WINE".

Or course the choice of the endorser is critical. In my view the must clearly appeal to both men and women:

George Clooney
Alec Baldwin
Reece Witherspoon
Hillary Swank

What these folks have in common is not only that they appeal to both men and women, but they are not viewed exclusively as sex symbols—which is absolutely critical in my mind.

The other key to this proposed generic campaign is that there is nothing complex about it and nothing about it that could be determined to accentuate the already complex, confusing and hoity-toity reputation that wine possess. It's a clear and simple message: Someone you respect and admire Drinks Wine. I choose a celebrity to carry out this campaign for a simple reason: Nothing grabs and even drives Americans to stop in their tracks quicker than Pop Culture. This may be good or bad, but it is the fact. And for wine to seriously grow, it needs to attach itself to popular culture.


23 Responses

  1. James McCann - February 4, 2011

    Some very good thoughts, although I don’t think Budweiser will let George Clooney out of his contract.
    I once (10 years ago) sat in on a brainstorming session with execs of one of the largest wine / spirits companies in the world to discuss wine marketing. When it was discussed that beer companies are everywhere, sponsoring all kind of events from Spring Break to football, etc… they all made awful faces and made it clear that they had no intention of evey engaging in broad based marketing efforts to bring more young consumers to wine. What a shame.

  2. Wine Harlots - February 4, 2011

    Well I for one, will start drinking wine if George Clooney endorses it. He’s soooo dreamy.

  3. Marcia - February 4, 2011

    Indeed Clooney is a lot easier on the eyes than Orson Welles. 🙂
    It is still a mystery to me why wine TV commercials have been so lacking in quality and quantity since Mr. Welles appeared regularly on our screens so long ago.
    Wine is not a product so unlike everything else that gets face time on TV. But its distribution and availability across the country is unlike most other products’ on the boob tube. And that is the most likely culprit (coupled with Americans’ greater focus on beer and spirits) that discourages more all-out TV commercial campaigns for wine.
    Even the Yellow Tail opera-drama commercials have seemingly vanished from the airwaves…. Have we Clydesdale equivalents in wine country to pair up with our product?

  4. Ron Washam, HMW - February 4, 2011

    What, no Charlie Sheen?
    Lindsey Lohan?
    We want them to drink a LOT of wine.

  5. josh - February 4, 2011

    Sounds a lot like the pistachio ad campaign. Also: Alec Baldwin? Clooney is a slam dunk though.

  6. Thomas Pellechia - February 5, 2011

    I can think of a few reasons that hold wine advertising in the dark ages:
    1. the industry is scattered and extremely competitive
    2. the national distribution network is corrupt
    3. the money involved in national advertising probably scares the crap out of an industry that doesn’t spend money`easily
    4. and aren’t TV and print dead?
    I’m sure there are more reasons or someone would have done it by now–right?

  7. James McCann - February 5, 2011

    TV is certainly not dead… look at the number of ads for both beer and spirits. The problem is that individual wine brands are not in the ball park of the dollar volume of the top beer and spirit brands.
    Thus, Tom’s idea of an industry ad campaign. Can you imagine getting all the big players in a room and actually cooperating? I don’t think so. It’s a shame, since the spirit companies manage to do it and thus wield much more power as a collective unit.

  8. Thomas Pellechia - February 5, 2011

    Re, TV and print: I was being facetious–again…
    Yes, the money involved in advertising that big is likely the knockout punch on such an idea.
    It’s a Catch 22: wine brands are not in the dollar volume ball park because wine never infiltrated the culture the way beer had.
    On the other hand, wine cannot infiltrate the culture without a massive ad expenditure to help it along.
    The result: lots of discussions over the years; few actions.

  9. JohnLopresti - February 5, 2011

    I think there is a culinary reason wine is an advertising backwater. American football aficionados are not going to purchase wine and brie in the stadium or at the pub or for the livingroom. Jugwine makers aside, wine does not lend itself to rough conditions. Guys who were cutting logs and harvesting hay are not going to ride home after a long day’s work sipping a surreptitious container of wine. Rather, wine is for the genteel, the contemplative, the appetising times before a meal; and the food ideally is shared with loved ones, not a garrulous room of sports enthusiasts.
    I can understand poets’ perhaps appreciating a beer on a warm day, even ordering suds with the oriental dinner in a restaurant. Wine does not lend itself to these settings. Wine is compatible with a narrow range of solid food intake simultaneously.
    The place I see opportunities to sell wine missed is on the label realestate. American label strategies are too classicaly old European; exceptions being the recent spate of gaudy wallaby and other bestiary labels.
    I could imagine a prariehome Ketchup board slapstick radioshow about a wine board, but the wine industry might not like the editorial comments the commedian writer is likely to superimpose upon an ‘American Wine Board’ theme.
    A final idea, maybe pasta manufacturers would perceive a synergy with wine co-marketing. This has been tried in the past, however, and wine becomes a minor symbol upstaged by the presentation focus upon the pasta.
    Wine has its place; maybe it is best visible simply in video sequences part of other stories, as in television drama or miniseries, and in film. Sideways created a lot of nascent pinot noir experts. I could also see the credits roll at the end of a film pausing a minute to run some footage about the upscale or midrange priced wine shown in the film proper.
    Then, economically speaking, there is the capital intensive nature of viticulture and winemaking. The wine industry relies on the affluence of its founders. This demographic is not a workaday beer crossection of Americana. Wine is in a different sort of channel marketwise.

  10. Thomas Pellechia - February 5, 2011

    What you say in your first paragraph has been proved untrue here in New York.
    Bully Hill Vineyards sponsored NASCAR race cars to good effect, and after that the winery was one of the sponsors of the Buffalo Bills and sold 375 ml wine bottles at games.
    It’s a misunderstanding of the wine market to believe that only contemplative pinheads will drink wine. Anyone who is effectively targeted will drink wine, eventually. If people can be persuaded to spend millions on phony clean water in cancer-causing plastic bottles, they can be sold wine.
    Plus, it stills holds true that 90% plus of the wine sold in the U.S. does not go to contemplative geeks but to the general consuming public, some of whom go on to become geeks, but not nearly as many as those who don’t.

  11. Thomas Pellechia - February 5, 2011

    As for your last paragraph, you hit on something.
    The nature of mass-market beer production is less costly than even the cheapest bulk wine production.

  12. Christian Miller - February 5, 2011

    When you crunch the numbers, you find that there are very very few wine brands of sufficient volume and dollars to justify the costs of advertising in sufficient weight to significantly move consumption.
    As for a generic ad campaign, the Wine Market Council designed and successfully tested such a campaign in several markets a number of years ago. However, given the difficulty of raising funds at a national level and the perceived higher return on targeted PR, events and non-advertising media campaigns, it was not repeated.

  13. Tom Wark - February 5, 2011

    Your point seems to be that a generic ad campaign would need t carefully choose its digraphic. I agree 100%.

  14. Thomas Pellechia - February 6, 2011

    As I posted above:
    It’s a Catch 22: wine brands are not in the dollar volume ball park because wine never infiltrated the culture the way beer had.
    On the other hand, wine cannot infiltrate the culture without a massive ad expenditure to help it along.
    The result: lots of discussions over the years; few actions.

  15. Ed Thralls - February 6, 2011

    Great idea, but why wait for Clooney and $3M? Why don’t we start our own campaign and run short videos exactly as you have described and pass it on via YouTube and our websites? Who knows, maybe it’ll go, as they say, “viral” – worth a shot and only takes 30 seconds and an iphone, Flip Mino, Camera – anything with a video feature, which is practically everything these days.

  16. Marco Montez - February 6, 2011

    I’m with Ed, in fact I would be surprised if this post does not inspire a few wineries and wine retailers (whose marketing heads read this blog frequently) to create their own “I drink wine” campaign…

  17. Box Wines - February 7, 2011

    One problem with big-budget wine marketing efforts is that while beer brewing scales just fine, winemaking doesn’t. Any wine big enough to be advertised on national TV will be presumed to be a “manufactured” wine of dubious quality.
    I like the idea of a generic wine campaign, but getting everyone from box-wine makers (not that there’s anything wrong with them!) to low-volume, high quality wineries on board would be a challenge. They are really in different markets – inexpensive wines are more like beer, while better wines are perhaps more comparable to a nice single-malt Scotch.
    I think winemakers would get more bang for their buck from product placements in movies and on TV. Instead of hiring Clooney as a pitchman, pay the production company to have his character order a California Syrah onscreen.

  18. Fred - February 7, 2011

    Wine is not beer — for all the reasons mentioned here — so there’s no logic to pursuing a beer (mass) media buy. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to broaden the exposure and appeal of wine.
    Sponsorship. Thomas mentions NASCAR, which Ravenswood had a go at a few years back. Not sure what that did for them (Constellation). But why push water uphill? Why not skiing, sailing, cycling, golf? It’s no coincidence that these are pastimes of the well heeled and require little physical contact.
    The arts are crying for sponsors. How many gallery opening have you been to where the principle beverage is over-chilled, over-oaked wine of no particular provenance? Some wineries have demonstrated a strong and natural affinity for the arts: Mondavi, Staglin, etc. What’s needed is scale. Anybody?
    Product placement. There’s an awful lot of wine being drunk on TV these days. Wine is practically a character on “Cougar Town.” How come we rarely get to see the label? “Entourage” recently featured Gemstone rather prominently. Surely there are others? Hopefully more wineries will recognize what CPG brands have known all along.
    Celebrity endorsement. Circling back to Tom’s opening gambit, I would caution against something so simplistic as “I (insert celeb here) drink wine.” Think back to Gap’s “Khakis” campaign from the early 90s with everyone from Hemingway to McQueen, Warhol to Picasso, Marilyn Monroe to Amelia Earhart. People just made fun of it because Gap tried to co-opt everyone cool and/or accomplished. I think you have to do more than merely pose with the product.
    Advertising. Christian mentions a Wine Market Council campaign from several years ago. You can see one execution here. If you can’t read the headline, it says: “The perfect complement to the ancient art of kick’n back.” Oy.
    Maybe we should try a different tack. One of wine’s weaknesses (in terms of brand loyalty) is also one of its greatest strengths: its diversity. If you’re looking to expand the category, American AVAs would do well to emulate Wine Australia’s effort. There is an over-long video here:

  19. Winestorage Services - February 10, 2011

    i’d vote for Reese Witherspoon. she has a positive and good image and she’s healthy storage

  20. Michelle - February 10, 2011

    Why? When there already exists a “George Clooney” of Italian winemaking (ie. Giorgio Pelissero)…which is already pretty world famous.
    Hey, Mr. Fermentation, if you’re in NYC – you should drop on by to meet-and-greet! 🙂 He’ll be here on Feb 21 in NYC in the financial district to host a wine tasting event. Drop on by 🙂

  21. [email protected] - February 24, 2011

    “Ron Washam, HMW said…
    What, no Charlie Sheen?
    Lindsey Lohan?
    We want them to drink a LOT of wine.”
    Great comment. Another interesting article and thread, thanks guys.
    Rather than celebrity endorsement, which is so expensive, producers should be tapping into communities such as this online. have you guys heard of lovethis? They are looking for wine experts to share recommendations with their members. Seems like a great way for vintners to provide a service to their customers, by recommending great wines under their respected brands, whilst driving users back to them to purchase it. As long as the content is honest, online coummunities usually don’t mind if there is a buck to be made.
    Anyway, I’ve started using lovethis to get wine recommendations, pretty useful. Check out my recommendations and I’d be interested to connect with you guys to find some interesting labels and new producers. Here’s a link to my profile:

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