Newfoundland’s wildlife protects province’s natural ingredients in ‘Rocktails’ campaign

Who: The Newfoundland Distillery Company, with Ray Agency for strategy and creative.

What: “Rocktails,” a new integrated campaign designed to inspire a cocktail movement in a province where rum and Coke is the drink of choice—rum accounts for one of every two bottles sold by the Newfoundland Liquor Commission. It is Ray’s first work for the company since winning the business in a multi-agency review late last year.

When & Where: The campaign is in market now, timed to coincide with the summer months in what the province has branded a “Come Home Year” after two years of pandemic. It’s an integrated campaign using online video, digital, print and out-of-home.

Why: Co-founder Peter Wilkins said the campaign mark’s the brand’s attempt to “grow up” after previously managing marketing in-house through a combination of PR and social.

The goal is to more firmly establish the six-year-old brand, and encourage trial among people who might not be familiar with its products.

The Newfoundland Distillery Company currently produces abut 40,000 litres of spirts per year, and has distribution across Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta (its Gunpowder & Rose Rum and Seaweed Gin are also available in the UK).

“We’ve got a decent portion of the market, but obviously we’d like to grow that,” said Wilkins. “Our key aim with this campaign is to make sure we can look after [our] province first, and then everything outside the province is a bonus.”

How: The campaign showcases the natural local ingredients that go into Newfoundland Distillery Company spirits such as its Seaweed Gin and Chaga Rum, but with a humorous twist. The two video ads introduce an element of whimsy right from the beginning, opening with a title screen reading “Somewhere in Newfoundland.”

They showcase the province’s natural splendour as they follow people attempting to harvest key ingredients in the company’s spirits, such as seaweed and chaga mushrooms, only to rebuffed by the local creatures—including what appears to be a mermaid and an angry gnome. “We think our ingredients are really special,” reads the closing super. “We’re not the only ones.”

“There’s a little bit of the province in every bottle we make, so we wanted to capture that, but not in a precious way,” said Wilkins. “A lot of people take food and drink very seriously, and it shouldn’t be. It’s a pleasure.”

The ads are being complemented by out-of-home featuring messages like “This is your rum on mushrooms,” as well as a long-form print ad for its Aquavit with the headline “This Aquavit won’t heal what ails you. Unless what ails you is a thirst for Aquavit.”

About the brand: A British transplant who has been living in Newfoundland & Labrador since the late 1990s, Wilkins is an acclaimed multimedia artist who describes himself as a former “professional drinker.”

He spent time as a presenter on the British show Dom Joly’s Happy Hour—a travel show in which he travelled the world (visiting places like Mexico and Australia) with the show’s namesake, an old friend of his, to explore how other cultures drink. He co-founded The Newfoundland Distillery Company with William Carter, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who spent 20 years cooking in Ottawa, in 2016.

Chris Powell