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Zephyr brings out the big guns in new McKenna campaign

Tuesday, April 10

In an effort to get St Paddy's Day in the Guinness Book of World Records, Zephyr recently enlisted the help of Irish comedian Jimeoin for its outstanding Guinness campaign. And it's kept the star-studded momentum flowing with the launch of a new campaign for McKenna starring David Duchovny. 

Zephyr took the McKenna business off incumbent DDB half way through last year after a pitch between Special Group and BCG2 and Zephyr's Robert Coulter says it was the David Duchovny idea that won the day.

It wasn't just a case of choosing a famous guy, however. Lion, which has already gone down a similar road with the use of Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel and Vincent Gallo for Steinlager Pure, did plenty of research and found the bourbon category was still largely about pick-up trucks and cowboy hats. Rebellion is still an attractive theme for the male 25-40 target market, but it wanted to move away from 'rebel cowboy' towards 'urban bourbon' and Duchovny—or, more accurately, his character Hank from Californication—was the top choice.

"We felt it was a very powerful idea and Lion saw the power of the thing too and found the money," he says. "... He's the guy that men want to be and women want to be with. And he's played that role for many years."

As you'd expect for a fairly big name in Hollywood, getting to the end result certainly wasn't all smooth sailing. Coulter says Duchovny is a fabulous guy, but he's got agents and an entourage and they had months and months of protracted wrangling over the script and the many associated "silly rules" (like having to hire his make-up artist and wardrobe guy) that came with the package.

"It's like dealing with terrorists," he says, half-seriously. "And you never actually get to talk to him."

Initially, Coulter says the script was a lot more down the Hank fromCalifornication road ("raunchy is the wrong word"). But half-way through negotiations things changed when Duchovny separated from his wife, so he didn't want to rub it in and would only be filmed by himself in a bar, not surrounded by women (his lawyer sat in the studio as they were filming).

Another part of the deal was that he would only be filmed in Los Angeles and filming in Los Angeles, Coulter says, is "hideous". Thankfully, Curious director Josh Frizzell's inside knowledge helped to smooth the process and kept the budget from blowing out.

"Everybody clips the ticket everywhere," he says. "You have to hire a policeman to be on set. You have to hire union crew and union actors. It's so union oriented. You can understand why they don't make many movies in LA any more."

So far he says the reaction to the campaign been "amazingly good". And Duchovny and his various hangers on were delighted with the end result (because they thought they were dealing with some agency from the third world, Coulter says they were also slightly surprised by how well it turned out).

At this stage he says it's only for the New Zealand market, although the Aussies seem keen on it. But Coulter and the Zephyr gang are obviously suckers for punishment, because they're hoping the relationship will continue and they might come down to film in New Zealand next time.

"I guess that people thinking it must be made in America is a compliment," he says. "... It was harrowing and hard, but it was worth it."