The 90-second ad, which launched across Greater China last night, ties Bruce Lee's 'be water' philosophy to Johnnie Walker's 'Keep Walking' brand slogan.
Ray Wong, CEO of PHD Hong Kong, the media agency working on this campaign, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the campaign may eventually roll out to the rest of the world.
Created by BBH and directed by American director Joseph Kahn, the agency was looking for a 'game changer' to represent Johnnie Walker's Blue Label, which 'changes the game' as it blends both new and old whiskey. Bruce Lee was chosen for his success at banishing the negative perception of the Chinese in the west as “Sick man of the East’ as the first Chinese actor to break into mainstream of Hollywood, explained a spokesperson for Weber Shandwick, the campaign's PR agency.
Lee is also known for his quote 'walk on'. As the story goes, when he badly injured his back before filming The Green Hornet, Lee turned to self-help books and one day, took one of his business cards and wrote 'Walk on' on the back as a constant reminder to keep moving forward, added the spokesperson.
The TVC, which was filmed at Club @28 of the Crown Plaza Hotel in Causeway Bay, stars Hong Kong actor Danny Chan Kwok-Kwan, who strongly resembles Lee. Computer-generated imagery (CGI) was used to further enhance the illusion by imposing Lee's facial expressions onto Chan's face as he says (based on Lee's 'Be Water' philosophy):
Dragons never die, because it draws power from water. It is like instincts, shapeless, formless, fluid...let it flow and it has the power to change the world. Follow your instinct, it is the most honest path. Don't just seek the path to success, but to exceptional success, don't follow the rules but to make them. Be water, my friend!
Wong said as TVC cost is high, the 90-second TVC was aired for one night on July 7 after which it will be screened online and in cinemas. PHD has negotiated two title sponsors for Bruce Lee’s classic movies on TVB Jade and TVB Pearl on 20 July to salute 40th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s death.
To target the whiskey label's affluent customer base, the media agency has also arranged to run the TVC in cinemas in locations like the Pacific Place and IFC Mall from August till the end of the year.
Update, 2:55 pm: Comment from Diageo:
"The synergy between the brand’s ‘Keep Walking’ message and Bruce Lee’s ‘Walk On’ spirit was such a compelling proposition that when we were exploring ways to represent the idea of a gamechanging philosophy, this collaboration made complete sense," said Siew Ting Foo, brand director, Johnnie Walker China. "To portray our gamechanging message powerfully we needed to change the game in terms of concept, production and execution. It was critical for us for the work not just to be beautiful but also wholly authentic—together with BBH and director Joseph Kahn we worked with Shannon Lee and the Bruce Lee Foundation every step of the way."
The campaign has sparked controversy and debate on social media. Lee avoided alcohol for most of his life, and critics have indicated that repositioning him as an ambassador for a whisky brand is insensitive and in bad taste. The character's use of Mandarin in the ad (aimed at the Chinese market) has also met with displeasure: a Hong Kong native, Lee spoke Cantonese.