Ryan Reynolds talks up Milestones’ happy hour menu

Ryan Reynolds might not have given Milestones a literal hand in the new campaign promoting its revamped “Happier Hour” menu, but he did lend his voice (as well as a few ad-libs).

The beloved Canadian marketer (and actor) is voicing a series of online ads promoting the casual-dining chain’s updated happy hour menu, which features two cocktails using Reynolds’ Aviation Gin: The Mile-High Bellini and the Smooth Landing. Introduced during the pandemic, the drinks are currently among Milestones’ top 12 selling cocktails, said vice-president of marketing Jimmy duDomaine.

The association with Reynolds dates back to last year, when Milestones added the Ryan Reynolds Martini to its menu. The actor has appeared in some internal videos for the chain, while also engaged in some back-and-forth banter on social media.

“[T]he opportunity to use Ryan Reynolds’ voice was huge, and we wanted his presence to shine through,” said duDomaine in an email interview.

The social-led campaign from Toronto agency Juliet is targeting people 25-44, skewing female, and with a focus on suburbanites in B.C. and Alberta to start (a deliberate ploy to capitalize on Reynolds’ Vancouver roots). “Ryan does well with a lot of demographics, but we feel this one has to be one of his strongest given his age and roots,” said duDomaine.

“Our brand’s personality comes through in a tone that is approachable, witty and fun, which we feel meshes really well with Ryan’s. When you mix those two things together, and couple them with Ryan’s popularity and relevance, we don’t think there could be a better person to help reach our target.”

The campaign is aimed at driving customer traffic and creating awareness of the chain’s happy hour offering, which has been struggling to find customer traction during the pandemic. It’s also about positioning Milestones as a “cool choice,” says duDomaine.

“We’re hoping programs like this can continue to help bolster our brand image and make us the go-to spot for many more Canadians. Ryan Reynolds definitely helps add that cool factor. ”

The “Happier hour just got happier” campaign is a simple construct: An overhead shot of a pair of hands as they doodle the Aviation Gin name and logo on a Milestones coaster, while also transforming the word “Happy” in happy hour into “Happier” and “Happiest.” Reynolds, though, adds a meta layer to the spots via his voiceover, noting in one spot that the hands people see in the spot are actually “stunt hands,” and admitting to viewers in another spot: “I do none of my own hand work.”

The hands in the spot actually belong to a Canadian illustrator and artist named Mutant 101. He has created work for brands including Empire magazine, Warner Bros., 20th Century Studios and Aviation Gin, as well as personal work for Reynolds that the actor has used on his social channels. The videos capture him doodling on the Milestones coasters in real time.

Juliet sent the scripts to both the Aviation Gin brand team and Reynolds, who tweaked some of the wording and even suggested a script himself. “It’s so him,” said Juliet partner and creative director Laurent Abesdris. “The actual [recording session] was unattended—he had the scripts and the motivation, and we just said ‘Send us a whole bunch of stuff.’ He sent us some hilarious, awesome, and a bit off-the-cuff stuff. When you’re dealing with an amazing talent, you just go with it.”

Reynolds has been the public face of Aviation Gin since acquiring a minority stake in the company in 2018, starring in a series of winking ads that use humour to send up his celebrity status and some of the traditional tactics employed in spirits marketing.

International spirits giant Diageo acquired the brand earlier this year, but Reynolds remains very much hands-on (not literally, of course) when it comes to marketing the product.

Chris Powell