Maker’s Mark Hires Jimmy Fallon and #FAILS

By: Guest | June 8, 2011 | 

An entrepreneurial attorney with an MBA, Adam Zuckerman is a blogger and people connector inspired by the intersections of business, law, media, technology, and all things outdoors.

You may have noticed that Maker’s Mark has tapped actor, comedian, and television personality Jimmy Fallon to narrate it’s most recent TV commercial, “It isn’t about hype.”

For those unfamiliar, Jimmy is an ex-SNL cast member, now hosts NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and has had roles several movies such as Almost Famous and Fever Pitch.

Now, I have no problem with Maker’s Mark selecting Jimmy Fallon as a spokesperson.  He’s cutting edge, personable, and someone I genuinely imagine throwing back a few Makers Mark cocktails.  On the rocks, Manhattan, or even a classic Old Fashioned; it’s all plausible.

Yet, I do take issue with the script.  

Speaking as if he were an employee of the company, Jimmy reads aloud what Makers Mark isn’t about: Hype, showing off, or being the official sponsor of the game.  He then concludes, “Or as our founder said, ‘It is what it isn’t.’”

I love the message and think the branding is spot on. I just wonder if they needed to execute it differently with Jimmy as the spokesperson.

Given his background (he is from Queens, N.Y.), it seems disingenuous. I’m willing to bet he’s never made whiskey in his life, and it’s unclear what, if any, ties he has to Kentucky.

Put differently, there is no way Jimmy’s voice makes me think of of rural Loretto Kentucky, where Maker’s Mark has been distilled since 1959. You see, Loretto is so small that there’s a good chance your high school had a greater population. According to the 2000 US Census, the town was comprised of 623 people – and that’s not the image Jimmy embodies.

What do you think?  Should the script have been drafted differently?  Does narrating the commercial make Jimmy an employee of the company?  Go get yourself a Maker’s Mark Manhattan (one of my standards), and let’s discuss.

You can watch the commercial on Maker’s Mark YouTube channel by clicking here.

An entrepreneurial attorney with an MBA, Adam Zuckerman is a blogger and people connector inspired by the intersections of business, law, media, technology, and all things outdoors.

  • marksherrick

    If you don’t like Jimmy, its okay to say so. No need to hide it behind tearing down a marketing campaign based on a single word. No, I don’t think him doing the commercial makes him a member of the Samuels’ family, but to have the commercial narrated to speak as an outsider makes no sense whatsoever. People who would recognize Jimmy’s voice have no illusion he’s from podunk, and it doesn’t matter. People who might buy something because they recognize a voice are not bad people, they’re people with MONEY, and that’s what the commercial is all about.

  • Great point… I’m not even sure why they would use Jimmy Fallon in this spot. First off, he’s a paid spokesperson which sort of works against the stuff about not sponsoring the big game. More importantly, a non-celebrity VO would’ve made the word “our” a non-factor.

    I would’ve gone with something more along the lines of Michael Imperioli’s spots for 1800 Tequila – show the big name spokesperson and give him a script that makes sense.

  • I agree with you insofar as there’s no connection to be seen between Jimmy and Maker’s Mark. If they wanted someone who was known, funny, and had ties to SNL, they should have picked Jon Hamm. I read that he buys the entire SNL crew bottles of Maker’s Mark every time he’s on the show, and practically everyone has seen his character Don Draper with a glass in hand. Just a thought… 🙂

  • AdamZ

    @marksherrick Mark, that’s the thing, I love Jimmy and watch Late Night when it’s on. My issue is solely with the script. I wonder if there is another dynamic worth exploring… whether the average consumer in their target demographic would recognize his voice. If not, why pay the premium for him? If so, does the position in the post above hold weight?

  • marksherrick

    @AdamZ @marksherrick they’re not looking for the average consumer, they’re looking for people who recognize Jimmy. If it impacts sales positively, the money is well spent.

    I find it hard to believe this post is about the word “we”, but I do understand the point of odd spokespeople – but if the commercial got you posting, it did its job.

    • JoshGardner1


      Heaven forbid you look for a cheaper cocktail @ a bar. Sure, absurd for a location in a major city? Take a look @ where your bar is, cocktails inflate in price like gasoline.

  • AdamZ

    @marksherrick Fair enough. For what it’s worth, it was the combination of Maker’s Mark (a brand I enjoy) and Jimmy that got me posting. As some proof at face value, here’s a picture of a receipt I took of an excessively priced Maker’s Mark Manhattan at Bar Dupont in Washington, DC in May. $16.50… absurd for the location.

  • Is he not a contract employee, talent for hire? I don’t see a problem with a spokesperson being tied with the brand in the context of the commercial.

  • AdamZ

    @dough Perhaps, but perhaps not. Two notes: 1) As a potentially temporary spokesperson, is he really an employee? Technically, yes, but… 2) What if he was hired by Doe-Anderson, Maker’s 40-year-and-counting advertising agency of record. (

  • @AdamZ ..which is still an agent of the company. And spokersperson generally speaks for the client. Still don’t see the problem here. Though he would do better to drop the “e” and drink real Whisky 😉

  • AdamZ

    @dough It’s a perception issue, not one of legal employer-employee relationship. 🙂 Doug, come over, we can discuss over a drink.

  • StoneSTL

    While I probably never would have picked up on it without your having pointed it out to me, I took less issue with the script you referenced than with the “This Isn’t Hip Hop” video. That said, I agree. Jimmy’s not an employee, so I don’t know why the script was written that way (it didn’t need to be – the copywriter could have done better). Plus, while I like Jimmy well enough, I have to agree with the post about John Hamm. Jimmy doesn’t make me think of drinking bourbon. Personally, I would have preferred Sam Elliot.

  • I think branding in a very complicated but important subject.Like you say they have chosen a good message and an interesting spokes person, but the spokesperson maybe isn’t the right embodiment of the brand.Everything you put out is an extension of the brand and has to say what you need it to say.If the person sponsoring you isn’t the right person, maybe you should pick someone less interesting but more fitting, or maybe not.

  • ginidietrich

    When I was prepping this post for publishing, I listened to the ad. I didn’t think it was a big deal. Then I read your argument and I totally agree with you. It sounds as though he works for Maker’s Mark. But I’m not sure it really matters. Do people recognize his voice? Will they make the same connection you did?

    Did he ever tweet you back?

  • @ginidietrich But– doesn’t he work for MM? He’s a paid spokesperson. I still fail to see the problem.

  • ginidietrich

    @dough I don’t think most people will make that connection. The ad makes it sound like he’s an employee of, as in FT not spokesperson, MM. I, personally, don’t think he voice is that recognizable so I’m not sure it really even matters.

  • antoniowhite

    I see your point. I think the fact that he’s not on camera helps with the issue you mentioned. I don’t think the commercial works at all and it’s not because of him. The gimmickry is repulsive and beneath the brand. It takes the rich quality imagery from the bottle and belittles it. McDonald’s commercials convey the idea of craftsmanship and quality more effectively. Putting your brand in a clown suit and saying it isn’t a clown, is laughable (pun intended). This is a product with great brand characteristics all handled, badly. The coolest brand attribute (the wax topper) is made to look ordinary and a bit disgusting (and not in a sexual way). The response is something to effect of, that’s how the famous wax is applied? Gross! From a straight copywriting perspective, I agree, the idea could be good. The video execution made it seem like a Sprite commercial.

  • antoniowhite


    StoneSTL. Stone, I’m in agreement with you mostly, but i think Sam Elliot skews a bit old and far too Cowboy for their audience. Jon Hamm could work, but I think he’s working hard not to get typecast as Don Draper. Without the slick hair, Hamm can’t sell Maker’s Mark, but do you know who could? Bruce Willis. Bruce has intergenerational appeal, the wise crackery of a Fallon and is a believable Bourbon drinker who could connect with younger and older folks alike who enjoy a good time at the bar. He’s got a big city vibe that also appeals to small town folks. Of course I’d cut the line about “Our founder.”

  • ChrisSmith

    @ginidietrich I instantly recognized his voice. I believe it worked because otherwise I may have never givin Maker’s Mark a second thought.

  • MissVoiceOver

    As a voice over artist with many years of radio advertising experience, my perception is a little different here, but echoes many of your thoughts. I do take issue with the word “we” in copy when the person saying “we” isn’t part of the company and is recognizable. When a radio DJ voices a commercial it’s a good rule to never have them say “we” for obvious reasons. This is a bit different because I really don’t think Jimmy’s voice is all that recognizable in this spot. Had I never come across this article, I wouldn’t have given it another thought. What I would’ve taken issue with is the sound of the voice. As most of you know, the “guy/girl next door” sound for commercials is very much in trend and this is what they’re going for here. But I don’t think Jimmy was the best selection. He’s got the “guy next door” tone but I think they could’ve done better to bring attention to their brand with a voice that has a more unique sound to it. Adam, I agree, why pay the premium for Fallon unless you’re going to get him on-camera or in print? To me, his voice is just too bland. And I still stick with, unless you’re an unfamiliar voice or name…never use copy that gives the impression the speaker has ties to the company.

  • NancyM.

    I think the spokesperson needs to be related to the brand in more than one way and preferably on a personal level in order to be convincing and to represent the brand properly.

  • JoshGardner1

    I think you’re spending way too much time reading into Fallon’s spokesperson position @ Maker’s Mark. Personally, I love the ad, and Fallon’s voiceover sounds humble and truly supportive of the product. I believe that Fallon’s role in the ad creates a humble persona in the ad. One that presents a fan of the product and doesn’t even try to mention who the voiceover talent is. The main question here is: Why is the talent in question?

  • backyardppc

    Why ask an opinion at the end of your blog post when you’ve already created a title tag that says “Makers Mark…Fails”? You know very well that your title tag serves as judge, jury and executioner for the spot, then act like the subject is up for debate. It’s poor journalism. Either title it as you did and stick by your opinion (that’s what an opinion piece does) or title it “Maker’s Mark Hires Fallon, But Does The Image Match The Voice?” and THEN ask opinions. But please, don’t insult our intelligence with this best of both worlds blogging 101 BS.

    • ginidietrich

      @backyardppc Thanks for your comment. As the main author on this blog, I will tell you that we ask our guest authors to state an opinion and then welcome feedback from our community. While I appreciate you don’t like that approach, it’s how we do things around here.

  • Fallonfan

    It worked for me! I was on my iPad with the tv on not paying attention to it till I heard Fallon’s voice! I rewound it to see what the commercial was for….just cause I recognized his voice!

  • RonBorg

    I don’t find his voice to be all that recognizable.  It certainly doesn’t match what you think of when you hear the word “whiskey”.  Looks to me like an attempt too hook up with younger customers.  My choice for the voice of a whiskey commercial would be Sam Elliot.   

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