Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
For many, the taste and smell of Malibu's flagship coconut rum evokes fun summer times like beach vacations and backyard barbeques. Now, as it seeks to bring this mindset to life for all seasons and occasions, the Pernod Ricard brand has tapped an award-winning music video director to turn the world of Malibu into a hyperreal, neon-drenched, judgment-free zone.
The brand on April 25 launched the "Welcome to Malibu" campaign with a digital spot that takes viewers on a tour of a place where drinkers can — as a tagline entreaties — "do whatever tastes good." The 90-second clip shows a woman transformed into a rhinestone cowboy, her motorcycle morphed into a horse made of coconuts, as she flies down purple streets to a barbeque party, a packed salon and a pineapple pizza parlor, before a heavenly finale set in the clouds.
"This is a place where you don't have to take yourself so seriously, you can unplug from all the pressures of the world and have a moment that is unapologetically positive, full color, full of happiness," said Pam Forbus, CMO of Pernod Ricard North America.
The video was helmed by Dave Meyers, best known for directing videos for musical stars — from Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande to Kendrick Lamar and Missy Elliott — as well as commercials for a long list of brands including Apple, Budweiser and M&M's. For Wieden+Kennedy London, the agency behind the campaign, Meyers sat at the perfect spot between pop culture and ad creative. The agency was particularly drawn to how Meyers shared everyday activities through a fantastic lens in the opulent video for Saweetie and Doja Cat's rap smash "Best Friend."
"We needed to show normal places that had had a hyperreal glow-up, because that helps you understand that anyone can be there, but you can have an amazing time at that place [with Malibu]," said Wieden+Kennedy creative Katy Edelsten.
Social media as art direction
For the video's look, Wieden+Kennedy selected images from the fashion world and GIFs and other ideas from social media; the pineapple pizza parlor taps into online conversations about the divisive food. Plus, the animation styles and graphic textures common to social media have been repurposed for the campaign's film, visual assets and spot cutdowns.
"We did it very intentionally. The [campaign] is mainstream, and so it feels like [its style is] ubiquitous… that's what we're going for: the most populist, popular kind of visual style that's there right now," said Wieden+Kennedy creative Rachel Clancy.
The DayGlo world of "Welcome to Malibu" could resonate with millennial consumers familiar with the seapunk aesthetic of the last decade, but also seems to nod to one of the buzziest topics in marketing: the IRL-URL convergence of the metaverse. Early in the creative process, Wieden+Kennedy thought about the Malibu world as a video game map with different locations that could be explored, and while it isn't intended as a gateway to the metaverse — a world with which Pernod Ricard has recently experimented — the campaign is robust enough to live on in different, emerging channels.
"We weren't necessarily creating … the Malibu metaverse, but I think what we've created for them has massive potential to give them branches into creating digital spaces [and] augmented reality spaces. I think what we've done … has huge potential going forward to give them a platform for doing that," Clancy said.
Elevating the visual approach
Back in the real world, the film was produced by Meyers and RadicalMedia and shot in Mexico City. The location allowed the agency to cast talent from not just its London base but from Los Angeles and throughout South and Central America. Diversity in casting was a priority shared by both brand and agency, and the video features talent with a variety of backgrounds, identities and abilities, including a main character who is a woman of color, wheelchair users and several non-binary folks. But even with diversity as a priority, great care was taken to portray people sensitively and to avoid tokenistic representation.
"We have this amazing opportunity as creatives to be in charge of casting and get to choose who is in ads," Edelsten said. "I think that's the best privilege in our job, to be honest."
Beyond the visual approach, the "Welcome to Malibu" spot is soundtracked by a remix of Carly Rae Jepsen's 2012 hit "Call Me Maybe" that was reworked by music house Curation. Already an irrepressible pop song, the gilded-lily remix — with rapped verses and an electric guitar solo — fits the summer mindset the campaign is seeking to deliver.
"Perfect pop music … is not trying to be super cerebral and intense, it goes straight to the pleasure center of your brain, and that's what Malibu does. It's not trying to be big and clever and pretentious. It tastes good and it feels good," Clancy explained.
Along with the spot, the integrated campaign will live across online, digital, out-of-home and in-store channels, with a range of digital assets including GIFs and stickers on social media. Forbus described the campaign as the biggest investment the company has made in the brand. It is also utilizing dynamic content and contextual targeting, tapping Wavemaker and in-house capabilities of content creation, data and ad-tech to orchestrate mass customization media at scale. Malibu brought some of the campaign to life at last weekend's Stagecoach Festival, and plans to find more places for the brand to show up.
"Malibu is more than just a rum: it's an experience. It's so easy — you can just add it to anything and it tastes delicious," Forbus said. "That easiness is something consumers are looking for in alcohol."