The Important Man

“Sooner or later, the people who end up running the planet all choose one drink – scotch.” The 2011 Johnnie Walker TV commercial, named “The Important Man,” starts out with this quote, blatantly stating that scotch is a drink for the rich and powerful. It is uncertain where this cultural connotation originates from, but it has been a widely accepted idea that scotch is a drink for serious men who wear suits and ooze intellect. However, this commercial does not limit its target audience to the wealthy and successful men, but to all those who wish to be one. Like the famous Old Spice commercial, “The Important Man” campaign draws its audience in by using a charming, middle-aged man who seems reliable and “important,” drawing the representation of a figure that many men desire to become.

“The quasi-peaceable gentleman of leisure…drinks freely of the best in food, drink, shelter, services, ornaments…and discriminate with some nicety between the noble and ignoble in consumable goods” (Leiss et al. 44). As we see in the commercial, “the important man” seems to have all of the aforementioned goods in his possession. He has his personal barber who shaves his face at his desk, a special bottle for his special scotch, and even a home aquarium with a mermaid. He attends parties with famous people like Don Johnson, the star of Miami Vice, and wears nice suits while looking poised and once again, important. The hyperbolic depiction of the important man’s life, using words like “leverage, portfolio, and fiduciary” pokes fun at the idea that scotch is only for such apparently stuck-up people, aiming to help the “less important people” be able to relate to the commercial.

“In a society with a high concern for social mobility, material possessions of known and ranked standing provide statements of social status and may provide entry into desired social worlds” (Schudson 157). As a leader of democracy, Americans strongly believe in the concept of the American dream. Using the idea of interpellation, the commercial creates a democracy of consumption “in which equal access to the symbols of status and influence is guaranteed to everyone on the same terms” (Leiss et al. 91). Thus, when the important man says “even average people enjoy the scent of the world’s most savored beverage,” he implies that anyone can enjoy the feeling of being important, and have the same dignity by drinking Johnnie Walker. He who drinks this alcohol can also sit next to a beautiful woman, and he too can play chess on a board served by a waiter. And someday, he too can become an important person and belong in the important social group of influential men.

This advertisement clearly promotes that being an “important person” has its tag-alongs such as wealth and glamour. Important men attend parties, own nice things, and are served well. In the midst of all this, Johnnie Walker becomes the symbol of all the tag-along affluences. However, we all know that life and the significance of a human being is not so one-dimensional. Despite its humorous portrayals and stylish production, I feel that Johnnie Walker’s obvious target audience is not so gullible to fall for the cultural connotations so boldly stated in this commercial.