Johnny Walker Beirut Bridge Ad Gets Undies In A Political Twist


When several people started sending in this image of a Johnny Walker outdoor ad that shows Johhny making his way across a broken bridge, the initially innocuous imagery and our agnostic sense of politics caused us to wonder, "What's so special about this ad? It's just a picture of a friggin bridge." Well after the ad came to us a few times, we realize, "Oh, people are pissed off because Leo Burnett/BBH and Johnny Walker are making Middle eastern fun of bridges destroyed in Lebanon." Oh, OK. Now we get it. Yea. Fuck that shit. We're pissed off too. How dare they stoop to such insensitive tactics to sell a bit of liquor. Whatever.

Anyway, for its part, Leo Burnett says the ad was intended to lift morale which Mack Simpson thinks would have been better expressed as "raise spirits.".

Written by Steve Hall    Comments (18)     File: Outdoor     Sep- 5-06  
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Reminds me of Dilbert's mother in the cartoon.

Posted by: roy on September 4, 2006 07:11 PM


I'm not sure it's being taken as negatively by the Lebanese, I was actually sent the picture by a friend from Lebanon and his note said this:

"The Johnnie Walker whiskey billboard near Nahr el Mot has always been there for years and has become a landmark of sorts as many of you know. This is the new version following the war. I pass by it daily and you can see people smiling as they drive by."

Sometimes ads need to be viewed in a broader context, this was a bilboard that had been there for years and was changed in many ways as an act of solidarity.



Posted by: Karl Long on September 4, 2006 07:27 PM

The Scotch Blog had something on this a few days ago: In market, the billboard has been very well received ...

Posted by: T. Carter on September 4, 2006 07:56 PM

But no matter how much we criticised them. WE always fall in that trap of patronising them. Let's face it we are hooked up by these ads forever. WE sill be sour graping if we don't admit that to ourselves.

Posted by: may35 on September 4, 2006 11:41 PM

The Lebanese actually perceive this ad positively. It's been circulated around the world by Lebanese people to their friends.
Instead of using the advertising space to post just another Johnnie Walker ad, the space was used to promote a dual message, one that will bring a positive message to the war weary Lebanese instead of just trying to sell them something.
Advertising will always be there. If the effort is made to adapt the ad to the context (time and place) then it gains depth and surpasses the layer that just sells.
Use the brand to say something useful.

Posted by: D on September 5, 2006 06:08 AM

What the client wants to know is:

Are they drinking more Johnnie Walker now in Lebanon?

And also:

How can we repurpose this ad for the Israeli market?

Posted by: Jetpacks on September 5, 2006 09:46 AM

True. The ad is being 'hailed' by Arab creatives and designers on the web... it's actually popping up on many Lebanese blogs and they seem to see the positive side of it.

Let me assure you that Leo Burnett were indeed trying to capitalize on some nationalistic feelings following the conflict.... pushing this Whiskey brand, but also creating an affinity with the locals...

Bombed Bridges-No Problem-Lebanon Keeps Walking.

We, AdBlogArabia, blogged about it here

Posted by: Zeid Nasser on September 5, 2006 01:24 PM

As I said on AdScam the other day... Leo Burnett also does the ads for JW in Israel...
Mmmm... Could this be a dastardly CIA plot!
Wait 'til you start seeing this shit in Iran!

Posted by: George Parker on September 5, 2006 01:35 PM

Bush did it

Posted by: Rex on September 5, 2006 02:39 PM

Keep Walking. Says it all. Johnnie Walker (I'm pretty sure that it's spelled with an "ie", btw) doesn't stop - wars, bombs, busted bridges, whatever. It's a brilliant campaign that is still in place because it must be working. This particular OOH has been in the market for years now, right?

Someone else wanted to "raise spirits"? How is that an ownable brand trait for JW? Mature brands in mature categories don't need more bland, category-based advertising. In fact, who does?

Posted by: Daniel C. on September 5, 2006 02:40 PM

I think you'll find its Johnnie Walker, an iconic name in the Scotch whisky industry. Hey, get the brand name right before you start pontificating.

Posted by: Geraldine Coates on September 5, 2006 03:15 PM

Yikes, adding to the bad context of this ad is that in much of the MIddle East drinking isn't allowed or part of the culture & religion. Could be interpreted very badly by some.

Posted by: Hashem Bajwa on September 5, 2006 03:16 PM

Lebanon is pretty progressive. They drink. Don't be ignorant.

Posted by: yikes on September 5, 2006 05:02 PM

They all fucking drink. But not in public. 'Cos if you do, they chop your nuts off!
I was in Geneva once when the Saudis were there for an OPEC meeting. Limos, Booze, Hookers... No wives... Clever fuckers.
Rich too!!!

Posted by: George Parker on September 5, 2006 08:35 PM

Oh really? They'll "chop your nuts off"?
Is that why you haven't been to Lebanon yet (since you obviously haven't been or you'd know that it was once again turning into a popular tourist destination particularly because its nightlife is so amazing. Oh and where the bartenders are quite generous with the alcohol unlike most places. Beaches, pubs, restaurants, can find alcohol anywhere. Is that public enough for you?

Posted by: D on September 6, 2006 08:15 AM

if they really wanted to lift spirits, they would have presented jimmy walker versus johnnie walker.

Posted by: HighJive on September 6, 2006 10:01 AM

Perhaps..I dont understand the advtg as is there or the negative political connotation..but I found it a nice ad..a good way to bring together the bridge affair alongside the bridge looking like a wine i getting it right or was that too obvious to discuss?

Posted by: Reshmy on September 7, 2006 02:22 AM

A similar campaign runs in Venezuela, or Caracas at least. Ok, so the Hezbollah isn't here, but in it's place is Hugo Chavez. When then main bridge connecting the city to the airport and a large trading port collapsed in January '06, the region (and country)came to a grinding holt. After decades of neglect and with all the oil money this country has flowing, it took several months to get the bridge partially rebuilt. Bridge or no bridge however, everyone is still drinking whisky. Johnnie Walker may not be the #1 brand in Venezuela today, but it sure as hell helps the people forget about the bs surrounding them.

Posted by: Vanessa Horwell on September 7, 2006 08:56 PM

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