There's no glitz or scantily clad women in Jim Beam's national television advertising debut. The star is the whiskey itself, and its history.
The world's top-selling bourbon unveiled its first-ever national television campaign this month. The 30-second spot, running on certain cable networks, displays a barrel of the Kentucky-made whiskey being rolled through a rack house after aging.
The ad depicts workers from different eras to stress the brand's heritage -- which began when family patriarch Jacob Beam first sold a barrel of whiskey in 1795.
"Whoever said change is good knows squat about making bourbon," the ad's narrator says. "For 210 years and seven generations, we've stayed true to the original Beam family recipe."
It concludes with the statement, "Here's to stubbornness."
The multimillion-dollar campaign reflects Beam's new direction in reaching consumers.
"TV will be the lead medium for us from an advertising point of view going forward," Keith Neumann, Jim Beam bourbon's marketing director, said in an interview Monday.
The commercials will appear on networks including Comedy Central and Spike TV. The ads build on Beam's print campaign -- "The Stuff Inside Matters Most" -- that the bourbon maker says helped boost sales growth last year. That same catchphrase appears on the TV ad.
Beam's new campaign reflects a growing role for hard liquor in television advertising, as more cable networks and local stations accept such spots.
Beer and wine are widely advertised on television. But for decades, the liquor industry adhered to a self-imposed ban on such advertising, said Frank Coleman, senior vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council, an industry trade group.
That silence ended in 1996, he said, and since then the industry has poured increasing amounts of money into pitching its products on television.
Industry members spend about $100 million each year on television commercials, about one-fourth of the overall advertising budget, Coleman said. Hundreds of local stations accept spirits ads, as do most cable networks, he said. But bourbon makers have been much less visible on television.
A critic of such ads said Beam's TV debut continues a disturbing trend.
"I believe that is incredibly irresponsible when it comes to the public health," said Susan Foster of Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
Foster said alcohol addiction causes "enormous human suffering" and carries a steep price for taxpayers who help pay for treatment.
Beam says its ad runs only on programs that exceed the distilled spirits industry's own standard, which requires that at least 70 percent of a show's viewers are adults.