MONDAY 5 DEC 2016 11:40 AM


Who: Johnnie Walker

Objective: The refugee crisis blighting the lives of many ordinary families in Syria and the wider Middle East has been front page news for the past five years. Yet, those dealing with the impact that fleeing from a war zone and travelling on hazardous seas has on human lives can go unnoticed. Thus, Kilmarnock-based whisky brand, Johnnie Walker, worked with Storyline on a film that would make a difference through a new social initiative. In collaboration with award-winning director, Talal Derki – a Kurd from Syria – Storyline highlights the work of ordinary citizens on the island of Lesvos, whose help to those landing on the island after a fearful journey across the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas has been largely unrecognised. Guy Elscome, global brand director for Johnnie Walker, says, “Ode to Lesvos is an inspirational story of how ordinary people adopted a positive, proactive and hopeful stance in the face of an otherwise tragic situation. The film shows how, in the most difficult and darkest of times, hope and humanity rise and how, through small acts of kindness and positivity, the residents of Lesvos made a big difference to the lives of those who journeyed there in search of a better life.”

Strategy: Despite its huge popularity, with exports generating around $4bn in sales each year, scotch whisky is not necessarily the first product associated with charitable endeavours. Yet, through Storyline, Johnnie Walker uses a collaborative spirit and mixed media approach to raising awareness of ordinary citizens willing to help strangers. Elscome says, “Knowing the horror and despair refugees face as they seek safety, shelter and a better future for their families, Talal was inspired to tell the uplifting story of the response of the community of Lesvos.” The usual narrative of the refugee crisis was also turned on its head. Western media outlets typically focus on the terror of those fleeing or the escalation in violence, Storyline focuses only on those concerned with making a real difference where it matters.

Rationale: Johnnie Walker aims to use its platform as a highly popular beverage brand to inform the wider public of the work being done to alleviate human suffering by ordinary citizens. It is also highlighting the work of the Mercy Corps, a humanitarian aid organisation whose members risk their lives to help those affected by conflict. Elscome says, “We worked with [Mercy Corps] to help inspire people to respond in a practical way to help those in crisis. Since the Syrian war began, Mercy Corps has helped more than 7.7m people affected and expanded its programming to Greece and the Balkans in response to the migration crisis. It is also working in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to help address the underlying causes of conflict and fragility.”