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Johnnie Walker Models Beckon Callers in New Outdoor Ads

February 28, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Johnnie Walker scotch plans to put its own version of a personal ad on billboards in California.

Starting in mid-March, Johnnie Walker ads featuring a tanned bathing beauty photographed from the back will cover extra-large billboards in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

″My number is 415-391-3365. And I drink Johnnie Walker,″ the ads in San Francisco will say.

Callers will hear a recorded 40-second message from ″Susan″ who says she liked Johnnie Walker ″on the rocks overlooking the surf at Big Sur″ and who would ″love to go out and do some dirty dancing.″

In the Los Angeles area, the ads will list a number in the 213 area code, and callers will hear ″Julie″ say she likes Johnnie Walker on the rocks ″overlooking Laguna Beach″ and is ″crazy about country rock, rollerskating in Venice, Tchaikovsky at the Hollywood Bowl and slam-dunking at the Forum.″

There also will be versions of the ads featuring a male model in each city. Print ads based on the billboard approach are planned for regional editions of magazines, including People, Esquire and Time.

Schieffelin & Somerset Co., the New York-based importers of the scotch, plans to spend $3 million on the campaign in California, which accounts for about 17 percent of the nation’s scotch sales. The campaign may be expanded to other markets later.

John Morrell, a marketing executive for Johnnie Walker, said the appraoch was designed as a parody of the personal ads and dating services.

He said the idea of posting a message on a billboard ″allows outdoor (advertising) to be something that it hasn’t been before.″

Leo Greenland, chairman of Smith Greenland, Johnnie Walker’s ad agency, said the ads are designed ″to give the consumer a little fun and involve them in our message.″

He said that if people start talking about the ads, he hopes liquor retailers will give Johnnie Walker more display space, awareness of the brand will improve and sales will pick up.

Morrell said combined sales of Johnnie Walker Black Label and Red Label make it the second best-selling brand in the country behind Dewar’s scotch.

One ad in the company’s current campaign features two swimsuit-clad women running on the beach with the headline, ″He loves my mind. And he drinks Johnny Walker.″ The ads have generated complaints of sexism and bad taste.

But Morrell defends the company’s approach and denies the ads are sexist.

″We are on the leading edge, and there will always be a small group of people who don’t like a particular execution,″ he said.

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