Ardbeg Single Malt Whisky






Ardbeg Single Islay Malt Scotch Whisky

How do you revive a mothballed brand worldwide on a tiny budget? For the pitch research, way back in 1999 before Ardbeg bottles re-appeared in shops, Dave Mullen and I went to Islay. There, talking to the man behind the Ileach, I stumbled across the curious fact that this tiny windy island with more sheep than people had over 140 committees. I thought we should give them another one: The Ardbeg Committee. Back at Oneagency, Dave and I devised a consumer direct marketing campaign. I invented a tone of voice that was as distinctive and downright quirky as Islay and the brand; Dave’s art direction was probably the best I’ve ever seen. Each Committee mailing built the relationship with a unique creative solution. Within just two years of launch, Ardbeg had become established as a measurable global brand. Committee members now inundate the Distillery with emails, phone calls and visits – and are happy to pay a premium for this niche brand. Our first mailings went on to win 7 Gold awards, nationally and internationally, and more besides. I was thrilled to win Gold for Copy in 2001. In 2002 the Mullens set up Story and continued the great work on Ardbeg, while I moved to another agency.

Ardbeg ‘Spirit Level’ mailing to committee members (shown)

1976 Ardbeg is a rare vintage with an especially well balanced taste. Emphasising this USP, the subtle concept features a die-cut ‘spirit’ level bubble and the headline beneath says, ‘All the elements in perfect balance’. The leaflet front cover opens to reveal that the ‘spirit’ you can see through the die-cut is, of course, Ardbeg. The call-to-action was the softest possible, with a half gaelic headline:

Roinnan t-uisge – beatha

(In pain English: the problem of dividing the whisky)

The body copy explained that only one bottle per member was permitted. This CTA elicited a 73% response rate.

To read some sample copy, please see below the Judges’ comments.


Judges’ Comments – extracts from Awards Books

“A popular winner”, the judges said. “It is a very ingenious strategy, and the copy is so involving, entertaining and fluid, you cannot help but read on and on. Strong production values and exceptionally high quality.” (Royal Mail/DMA Awards 2001).

“A really good example of what you can achieve with a small budget’ (Royal Mail/DMA Awards 2000).”

“Any aficionado of single malt whisky will tell you that the merest whiff will transport you to altered states, so it’s no wonder then that this mailing to re-launch a retired distillery newly acquired by Glenmorangie delivers an altered world. This glorious flight of imagination takes its participant recipients on a dreamlike journey through the brand heritage with the creation of The Ardbeg Committee, an elite group of stewards to which you, the reader, have been extended an exclusive membership.

“Tongue-in-cheek copy, Letter, Committee Rules & Regulations booklet, and CD-Rom (with mini-documentary) is all beautifully art directed in damp hues and duotones suggestive of the landscape (and perhaps the lush mood imbued by the product itself).” (John Caples Awards, 2000)


Sample copy – Committee Rules & Regulations

Any committee needs Rules & Regulations. So we decided to give Ardbeg Committee members their own little book, tongue firmly in cheek. I had huge fun dreaming up the Rules! I felt the right copy tone would be Victorian Dictionary meets The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie meets Committe Regs meets Twinkle in the eye. The tone and Rules hit the spot with Committee Members, who regularly contact with Distillery with stories about how they have very happily fulfilled Section 2 Paragraph 6, and so on.

(Opening Spread)

This little book is most respectfully submitted to members of The Ardbeg Committee and is dedicated to the original founders of the Distillery.

It is intended that the information contained therein shall facilitate the advancement of knowledge with regard to Ardbeg Single Islay Malt Whisky in the expectant hope that the Distillery shall remain open and prosperous from this day on (i.e. please drink Ardbeg).

Distillery Manager and Committee Chairman

Founded on the First Day of the First Month in the Year Two Thousand AD.

(Copy extract from next spread – Rules & Regulations)

5. Responsibilities of membership are primarily to enhance the member’s own quality of life through greater understanding and comprehension of The Ultimate Islay Malt Whisky.

6. Moreover, members are expected to actively pursue a serious and altruistic duty: to bring others into the Ardbeg fold. The result of the collective effect of this is to increase worldwide consumption, thereby ensuring that the doors of Ardbeg Distillery shall never close again.

Section 3

Tactics to help achieve the aim set out in Section 2 Paragraph 6 above:

7. Join any society, association, club (sports or otherwise), charitable organisation, body, amalgamate, institution, establishment or committee, formed for the purposes of alcoholic enjoyment or otherwise and form new friendships throughout the community.

8. Do all lawful things deemed as necessary to gain the attention of the person within your company identified as someone unaware of the delights of Ardbeg.

9. Once attention is gained, prepare the individual to have a dram of Ardbeg placed in their hand. Select from the vicinity either Ardbeg 10 Years Old, 17 Years Old or another Ardbeg Vintage, depending on your available budget and personal inclination.

10. You will find it advantageous to refer to the Notes of the Chief Noser contained on pp12-16, to fully inform the individual concerned of the experience that they are about to enjoy. After this, silence may be best observed, so that every one of the senses may be focused on the malt. After all, tasting is more properly termed ‘sensory evaluation’.



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