Barrels, Beavers, Brilliance: The World’s Best Whisky Ad

The Woodsman

Hard working beavers


We talk a lot at System1 about ads being entertaining. And this ad for The Woodsman whisky is a truly entertaining ad. But let’s pause for a second to talk about something else: craft.

Craft is at the heart of this ad, behind and in front of the camera. The family of beavers who star in it are master craftsmen, putting the effort in to build themselves something special. The Whyte & Mackay-owned brand itself puts a huge emphasis on craft – the whisky is aged in special wooden barrels built and finished in specific ways. And while other brands might use CGI, agency Mr. President found an expert model maker and a puppeteer to bring their beavers to life.

In other words, this is an ad where everything is aligned – the action on screen, the brand idea, and the executional touches. It all fits together. And it all supports the proposition. Because the best thing about craft and hard work is the moment when you take a step back and feel pride in what you’ve done. “Well earned”, as the Woodsman tagline says.

This kind of care, thought and alignment to support the proposition isn’t present in every ad. When it is, and when it touches something in the audience, great things can happen.

This time, they did happen. At 4.8-Stars, The Woodsman has the most effective whisky ad in our Test Your Ad database. Are there better known brands out there? Sure. Have they made an ad as good as this? Not since we started measuring them.

That coherence in the ad – everything supporting the proposition – is part of what makes it great. But let’s face it, another huge part is that the beaver puppets look so great. Not too cute – brand and agency worked carefully to make sure the ad keeps on the right side of alcohol ad regulation. But they’re brand characters you instantly want to see more of.

Brand mascots like Barry the Beaver are thin on the ground in alcohol ads these days. Partly it’s a fashion thing, partly it’s that brands have been a bit cautious around that regulation, which is designed to stop alcohol ads appealing to kids and helped end the golden “Hofmeister Bear” era of the drink brand mascot. But there are ways to do mascots which don’t feel childish, and do embody the spirit of the brand. Barry’s rough-edged, no-nonsense pride in a job well done is one of them.

As that category top score shows, brand mascots work. Strong characters, humour, and a powerful sense of place are all elements which trigger right-brained “broad-beam attention”, according to Orlando Wood’s Look Out. The Woodsman ad has all three. Like Barry and his crew, this ad has earned its celebration.

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