The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and Juice Marketing are using social media to attract consumers to a YouTube commercial promoting the Zinfandel Festival.
The video launched earlier this month — the first of the trade organization’s campaign that could include up to 10 such online ads this year.
“In the past, they have relied a lot on print advertising to get the word out,” said Dina Mande, Juice’s co-owner and creative director. “I think they’re smart to embrace these new tools. The possibility exists to reach a whole different audience.”
Mande and her husband, Steven Gould, founded Juice in 2009 soon after moving to Paso Robles. A full-service wine marketing firm, it now employs four others. Since 2005, the couple has owned a production company called Subliminal in Los Angeles that specializes in television commercials.
The Paso Robles video plays on zinfandel’s genetic relationship to the Italian grape primitivo and a Croatian varietal called “crljenak kaštelanski.”
“We wanted to communicate the history of zinfandel,” said Stacie Jacob, the alliance’s executive director. “But we wanted to do it in a tongue-in-cheek way. It was designed to be viral.”
The effort seems to be working.
Two copies in circulation have together received more than 37,000 hits in less than three weeks. It has been mentioned in wine blogs and earned a link on The New York Times’ online Diner’s Journal.
Mande even got an e-mail from a friend in Germany who imports wine asking if she’d seen the ad — not realizing she’d directed it.
It stars Casey Biggs, a veteran actor who recently moved to Paso Robles. His long list of television and movie credits includes a recurring role as Damar in the television show “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
Some see the format as a spoof of recent Old Spice ads. Mande also compared it to the Most Interesting Man in the World series for Dos Equis and a Johnnie Walker commercial.
But parody wasn’t their intention, she said. The “Paso Wine Man” character was based on Biggs and the final script was crafted by his New York writer friend, Zay Amsbury.
They declined to say how much the trade group is investing in the videos.
It’s unclear whether it will boost attendance for the festival, which runs from March 18 to 20. So far, ticket sales for the Zin Tasting & Wine Country Auction are roughly on par with this time last year.
But Jacob is already calling it “one of the most effective marketing programs” for the group. In addition to promoting other annual events, future commercials will focus on the distinctive aspects of the region and its wines.
“We want to continue the character,” Mande added. The area “still has potential for so much growth and for national and international recognition.”
‘Sideways’ writer at festival
Author Rex Pickett will be the special guest at the March 19 tasting and auction that is the central event of the 19th annual Zinfandel Festival.
Attendees can buy Pickett’s newest novel, “Vertical.”
“A portion of the book actually happens in Paso Robles at the Justin Winery,” Jacob said. “It’s about a journey to the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon.”
In 2005, Pickett sold copies of “Sideways” at the tasting. That book and its subsequent movie adaptation had a significant impact on industry sales, particularly the demand for pinot noir.
More than 50 zinfandel producers will pour at the evening event. Tickets are $60. For $85, attendees can enter an hour early at 6 p.m.
More than 140 member wineries have special events planned during the weekend. For details, visit www.pasowine.com.
— Raven J.Railey
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