Inniskillin takes cues from Hollywood

A campaign for the Arterra Wines brand exemplifies the company's recent approach to creativity across its portfolio.


Arterra Wines CMO Andrea Hunt would like to inject a dose of creativity into the wine business, a category she has previously charged of being overly conservative in its advertising.

A new brand campaign for its Inniskillin label, launched on the heels of a push for Arterra’s Vintage Ink last year, are early indications that the wine company is serious about taking a more creative approach to a historically staid category.

A 60-second spot, dubbed “The Original Start-Up,” tells the 1970s’ origin story of Niagara-based Inniskillin, one of Canada’s largest wine brands. By Bensimon Byrne, the commercial resembles a blockbuster trailer that hits on the narrative highs and lows of a co-founding duo – one from Austria, the other from Italy – intent on making it big in a barely nascent industry. Beset by setbacks, the pioneering founders beat the odds, eventually winning a top wine competition.

Hunt says the goal of the campaign is to tell the story of the “wine that started Canadian wine,” driving relevance and top of mind awareness through “celebrating its tremendous, but largely unheralded start. We wanted to bring some ‘swagger’ back to this iconic, but recently quiet brand.”

Joseph Bonnici, ECD at Bensimon Byrne, says the spot’s cinematic format was chosen after the agency began digging into the founders’ story and realized their pioneering spirit and accomplishments deserved a Hollywood treatment.

“We thought to ourselves, if people understand this, it’s really a sexy story and it’s really going to have a positive halo on the brand,” Bonnici says. “The over-the-top-ness of the story… There are many moments when [the founders] could have just folded it in, but just refused to let any obstacle in their way stop them from creating the best Canadian wine brand.”

From a creative perspective, the biggest challenge was capturing the founders’ journey from industry newcomers to leaders of a prized wine, Bonnici says. “We actually couldn’t tell the full story. There’s too much in it, there are too many defining moments, where they could have just backed down, but they didn’t. What we decided to do… is take some of the best, sexiest, most dramatic moments of the story and piece them together to almost present a movie-trailer style version of what the much longer Hollywood epic would be. It deserves a two-hour movie to be honest. But what we tried to do within a minute is present the depth of the story and the drama of the story.”


To achieve the desired level of craft and authenticity, the agency recruited Hubert Davis, a Oscar-nominated documentary maker, to work on the film. Davis was also behind last year’s award-winning “Boys Don’t Cry” spot for White Ribbon.

While Jackson-Triggs is the most popular and awarded wine for both Arterra and Canada, Inniskillin is exported to 85 countries, making it the country’s largest wine brand on the global market. It sits within a portfolio of more than 100 wines, including the globally recognized Ruffino, Robert Mondavi and Kim Crawford.

The brand’s international scale had an influence on the creative approach, Hunt says. “Sharing the story and in particular celebrating the international acclaim the brand has earned is important to an international clientele, particularly as the brand is often shared as a prized gift from our country.”

Hunt, who joined Niagara-based Arterra a year ago this month, has previously called for a more creative approach to wine advertising. In September, she remarked that the industry has “remained remarkably unchanged in terms of its approach and messaging to consumers for decades.” At a time when some millennials are putting aside their fine-dining wine glasses in favour of drinking the canned stuff on a blanket at the park, it was time to try something new, she said.

Vintage Ink - TSA - Al[1] (1)That mindset is behind another Arterra campaign launched in October for the company’s millennial-targeted Vintage Ink. Targeting young wine drinkers through print, OOH, digital and social ads in B.C. and Ontario, the campaign tapped into millennial desire for self-expression and authenticity, using the art of tattooing as the ultimate symbol of that expression. The people depicted in the ads were fascinated by the artistry of tattoos decades before it reached popular culture.

“A lot of times, there’s a belief that you have to show a millennial in order to appeal to a millennial, and that’s simply not the case,” Bonnici says. “By showing these people who really led the way for them, we think we really can appeal to a millennial market, and broke through with people you don’t expect to see featured in ads.”

Bensimon Byrne has also been working on Jackson Triggs and Open, as well as other Arterra brands that have yet to launch. Meanwhile, Dentsu Bos is AOR on other brands within the portfolio.

Hunt believes it’s imperative that the company take a portfolio approach that is strategic both in targeting and positioning, given that consumers today tend to entertain a wide variety of brands. “Our efforts need to address a diverse consumer base,” she says, “but in a way that is incremental to the total business – not simply trading share.”