A group of students at a European film academy have created a breathtaking unofficial commercial for Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey. The ad, entitled “Dear Brother,” features a sweeping score, breathtaking scenery and incredible production values. Looking at it, you would never know it was a student-made video. What’s even more amazing is that the students are German, not Scottish. The film was created by a team of students at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.
The 1 minute 30 second ad features stunning views of Scotland’s Isle of Skyes rugged cliffs overlooking the ocean. The two tall, handsome ginger brothers, played by Robin Guiver, Mathew Lewis-Carter, traverse down dirt roads, climb up rugged cliffs, and leap over gnarled trees, all while carrying a mysterious package wrapped in burlap. They stop into a decrepit stone house and explore the place in awe and wonder, as if reliving childhood memories they haven’t relived in years. The house has now been almost reduced to rubble and rotting boards. They pause in the shadow of a window and pour out a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label and clink glasses, proposing a toast. But to whom?
The ad was conceived and directed by Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherz. Lebherz told AdFreak in an interview, “We wanted to create a story that touches the viewer within 90 seconds. I think when something touches you, you keep it in mind. So, one day we had the idea of two brothers visiting the places of their youth for the last time together. The Scottish landscape and the brand felt perfect for this situation
The scenes are twisted, gnarled and rugged and expertly capture the unforgettable scenery of the Scottish landscape. The scenes are accompanied by a voiceover in an Scottish brogue by John “Bang” Reilly, reciting a melancholy, moving poem about brotherhood. “Walking the roads of our youth…” it begins. “Our home and our childhood/Always stay beside me so I can be free, free.”
Indeed, the motif of freedom is prevalent throughout. But is it the easy freedom the brothers feel as they walk carefree down the Sottish roads of their youth, or is it a different kind of freedom? As the ad continues, we can’t help but wonder.
The ad is emotional but also suspenseful, given that we don’t know what the package the brothers are carrying. When they reach the cliff, they exchange meaningful glances and unwrap the burlap bag. Apparently, these two brothers were not the only siblings in the family, and they have come to scatter the ashes and bid fond farewells to a third brother. It’s a surprise ending that packs a serious emotional punch. You’ll be hard-pressed to keep from wiping your eyes when you see it.
“Nearly everybody has been to the point that you’ve lost someone, so everyone can empathize with the feeling of our protagonist. It’s the memories that keep those persons alive,” Lebherz told AdFreak.
The ad ends with the phrase “Keep Walking” superimposed on an Scottish road winding away into the horizon, with the two men in the middle distance, walking away from us. We can only imagine where their future journey will take them.
What’s even more amazing is that Lebherz said he hasn’t shown it to the folks at Johnnie Walker yet. He said it might not fit in with their current focus as a brand. “We love the old advertising message ‘Keep Walking.’ It says don’t stop until you reach your goal. It stands for the effort that somebody puts into something, and that is what made the brand big. But Johnnie Walker lately changed their message to “Joy Will Take You Further,”and produced a film with lots of different situations of people climbing or going by hot-air balloon. We think that a visually told story that creates emotions is always stronger than just showing different settings without storytelling.”
The story of “Dear Brother” is not one that anybody who sees it will forget. It has the narrative thrust of a feature film in the length of an ad, and with its emotional twist ending and the clear warmth between the brothers that comes through thanks to the actors, demonstrates the emotions that advertising can evoke in people. It’s not merely about selling dog food, beer, cars, or appliances. It’s about storytelling.
The voiceover continues, “Time was endless/ Our ways were always the same/If your heart’s full of sorrow, keep walking/Promise me from heart to chest you’ll never let your memories die, never…I’ll always be alive, by your side, in your mind, I’m free.”
The video was produced by Madlen Folk & Johann Valentinitsch. It was edited by Raquel Caro Nunez, with Visual Effects/Compositing by Daniel Titz & Dorian Lebherz, fiilm Musi by Renée Andre Abe, and Sound Design by Marvin H. Keil. Watch it below: