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This Month in Wine Advertising Pt II: King Estate

Earlier this week, I wrote about a rash of new wine advertising that appeared in current food and wine related magazines.  Always interested in the ways and means through which wineries communicate, I found a mixed bag of results based on several advertisers’ attempts.  For part II, with a little help from a guest professional, I’ll examine King Estate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

King Estate, started in 1991, is somewhere between a debutante and a doyenne, while clearly holding one of the tent poles for Oregon’s predominant winemaking region.

Based in the southern portion of the valley, their 175,000 cases of production come from a combination of estate (470 organically certified acres of vines) and sourced fruit, with a focus on the Oregon varietal stalwarts, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

In an interview with Sasha Kadey, Marketing and Public Relations Manager at King Estate, he emphasized King Estate’s maniacal focus on being stewards of the land … of allowing the circle of life and sustainability to be more than lip service.  In fact, throughout my interview, the dual themes of organic and sustainability coupled with leadership for the Oregon wine industry came through enough times to indicate that for King Estate destiny is partly creating their present reality and then cutting through the thicket of modern commerce as responsibly as possible on the way to their destination.  Case in point:  they participate in an ancillary program like the “Salmon Safe” certification because their 1033 acres sit at the headwaters of the Siuslaw River with an on-property spring that feeds the river.  This is also the focus of one of their advertisements.

Paul Dolan would be proud.

Kadey said in regards to their advertising, “When a winery is in a ‘leadership’ role for its region or varietal category, it is something of a necessity to advertise… we are somewhat aided by the truly dismal quality of most cliché driven wine advertising – which makes it not so difficult to stand out and be a little disruptive.”


Kadey continued, “(Owner) Ed King and I developed the ad concepts, copy and layout.  The concepts are really ways of expressing sentiments and philosophical stances … we lamented the fact that organic agriculture is treated as a hippy-fueled pseudo-science while chemical farming is referred to as ‘conventional.’

This background on King Estate, for me, adds significant inflection on their advertising work which is focused on two current key messages (organic farming and salmon safe farming) with a third piece of messaging around nature conservancy in development.

Our guest expert examining the advertising with me is Fred Schwartz from Fred & Company, a Sonoma resident, Schwartz is a brand and marketing expert who served as creative director for several leading advertising agencies before founding his own shop.  Later acquired by WPP, a significant holding company in the agency vertical, Fred now runs Fred & Company, a consultancy to the wine trade, providing strategy and tactics for marketing and sales.

King Estate Ad #1


Full Size PDF version:
King Estate Ad #1

As Seen in: Wine & Spirits Magazine

Goat or Gloat?
This is some of most thoughtfully produced advertising you’re likely to see come out of the wine industry.  Fantastic visual!  But, I have to channel an advertising prof. from college when he said, “Who do you think is the smartest person in this room?  Of course, each of you think you’re the smartest person in the room.  Therefore, create advertising for somebody that is dumber than you.  Cleverness kills.”

I would make one small copy change to this ad in order to NOT make it too clever—Instead of saying, “We owe the future” which is kind of passive and muddy, I would add supporting copy that says, “Since 1991 we’ve been making up for the previous 46 years.”  Or something to that effect, and then I’d move the tag, “We owe the future” to the bottom left. 

Overall, a skilled ad and worthy of award relative to their wine industry peers.

What Fred Says:

Overall, these are among the best the wine industry has to offer.  If that sounds like a back-handed compliment, it is.  While the art direction is rather traditional, the art is well conceived.  These ads will get read.

What intrigues me is the positioning line that appears next to the brand name:  oregon wines.  What’s going on here?  Is Oregon a winemaking badge for something in particular?  Does King Estate assume that readers won’t recognize their home AVA?  Is this a grab at trying to appear larger, more dominant or truer?  What?

The body copy holds some clues.  The “roots” ad tells us the winery is “family owned and independent,” which I take as proxies for “Honest, Fair, and Principled.”  Principled enough to note, in small-ish type, that the fruit they purchase is sustainably farmed—a step down from their organic soapbox.

King Estate Ad #2


Full size PDF version:
King Estate Ad #2

As Seen in:  Mutineer

Goat or Gloat?
Similar to Ad #1, the match between the headline and the sub-head is just a bit too clever for my taste.  I don’t want to have to think too hard and when you get into “legacies” and “owing the future,” I have to think too much.  Instead, I would add supporting, elaborative copy and move the tag, “We owe the future” to the bottom left.

What Fred Says
The “fish” ad goes further in defining Organic, noting not just the absence of pesticides and herbicides, but water, too.  These folks are serious!

The Last Word from Sasha at King Estate:

“The goal of the advertising isn’t just to sell more King Estate wine or increase brand awareness, but to increase awareness of the message itself.  We want to ‘thought provoke,’ and hopefully activate an existing consciousness or sub-consciousness about these issues, in hopes that we can actually encourage real change in the way people think about organics, water pollution, and nature/wildlife conservation and other things that affect the environment.  We spend same money for our ad placements as other wineries that seem to be happy to settle for just using page to put a picture of a bottle in front of consumers with no meaningful message.  if nothing else we match them in our efforts to put our products in front of people, and if the messaging registers with someone, then that is gravy on top, a clear net positive over the status quo.

‘We Owe the future’ as a tagline also came about after much though ... at the time we were developing the ads, a hot topic for Americans was the idea of ‘mortgaging our future,” leaving behind debts for future generations - whether they be economical (deficit) or environmental ... we wanted to take that common phraseology, and turn it on its head.  ‘We owe the future,’ they don’t owe us ... we have benefited from past generations that felt that way in so many ways, so we should keep paying it forward.  Of course the ‘we’ is not ‘King Estate’ but ‘we’ as a society and civilization—the collective we.”

What do you think about the state of wine advertising and these ads?  Have your say in the comments!


Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (7) |


On 03/26, PaulG wrote:

As a media pro with many decades of marketing and advertising experience, I give them a B- for these ads. Good intentions, muddled message. The fish graphic looks like it’s made out of shotgun shells. The “We Owe The Future” line, as you say, is vague and somewhat confusing. However, it’s perfectly right and useful to hook the brand to Oregon, just as wineries in the state to the north hook to Columbia Valley or Washington.

On 03/26, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I think it’s a nice effort and a big improvement over many wine ads out right now (esp the very confusing 2-page KJ ads of “Welcome to Jackson Country” that look like old Marlboro ads) but 1) “We owe the future” reads as if it is a typo’d tagline of “We own the future” which - though bold - sounds better in kind of a global village we are all tied together and need to be better stewards like KE, and 2) I completely thought the fish graphic was comprised of shot gun shells!

On 03/27, noble pig wrote:

As far as putting Oregon on the ad, I think it’s good. Initially I might not have thought so but after showing my first draft wine labels on my site and some reading “Oregon Pinot Noir” (which I was initailly against) I had an overwhelming response from people who said they loved having that on there. Most people are not versed enough to recognize where an AVA or a winery is located.  That was kind of a wake up call. I think they did well with their ads.

On 03/29, Stephanie L wrote:

Kudos to King from a brand standpoint for focusing on brand values in these ads and not just pure product.

From a conceptual standpoint, however, “we owe the future” feels like the concept, it doesn’t work here as a tagline. besides getting a better payoff from the copy, better imagery may have also helped show the “we owe the future” idea. the fish just doesn’t do it, looks like pencils at first, and then the whole drink like a fish connection with booze, i don’t know about that. plus, sorry to point this out, sasha, but you were talking about cliches, and roots couldn’t be further grounded in that category. a good CD would’ve taken this concept far, because the idea is pretty special.

i agree, they will be read, and on first glance considered clever and different (for different they indeed are), but there’s too much disconnect.

On 03/30, Sasha Kadey wrote:

We appreciate that this conversation is going on. The feedback is excellent and rather than responding to anything point by point, we’ll respond by taking the parts we find sensible and letting it help shape our future efforts. Thanks for the constructive criticism and compliments.

One clarification: the winery’s home appellation is Oregon, no sub-appellation, and no gimmick there. Though the winery is geographically located in the Willamette Valley, we fall just beyond the technical boundary of the appellation. We do make some Willamette Valley designated wines from other vineyards. Since day one King Estate has opted to work toward establishing Oregon in the national marketplace, recognizing that the confusing plethora of unpronounceable AVA’s is not always helpful in the big picture. Oregon wines appears under our logo in almost all uses, it’s not unique to this campaign.

Some of the comments about the ‘Wine Bottle Fish’ resembling shotgun shells and pencils may be attributable to the way that Jeff’s scans have washed out some of the color and altered the contrast - no offense Jeff wink.

I have posted better images at the following link for you to view. I would appreciate it if you would review them and tell me if you still feel the same way.

Thanks again we appreciate the feedback and conversation.


On 11/13, sukunmaza wrote:

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On 05/07, TN Pas Cher wrote:

e the future” idea. the fish just doesn’t do it, looks like pencils at first, and then the whole drink like a fish connection with booze, i don’t know about that. plus, sorry to point this out, sasha,


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