BACKBITE

One hesitates to suggest that the company that produces the world’s most distinctive beer must be off its corporate rocker, but when Guinness first defends an ad depicting a sadomasochistic Tory supporter hanging from a ceiling, and then unreservedly withdraws that support, that is the only satisfactory explanation I can find.

One hesitates to suggest that the company that produces the world’s

most distinctive beer must be off its corporate rocker, but when

Guinness first defends an ad depicting a sadomasochistic Tory supporter

hanging from a ceiling, and then unreservedly withdraws that support,

that is the only satisfactory explanation I can find.



All right, it isn’t quite as simple as that. The ad, which has run in

the men’s magazine, FHM, was supposed to show ’what crazy people get up

to in a conventional front room’. The fact that it contains direct

references to the sexual experiment that led to the death, in 1994, of

the MP, Stephen Milligan, suggests to me that the agency woefully

underestimated the sensitivity of senior Tories, who swiftly dubbed the

ad contemptible and forced its withdrawal.



Clearly, Ogilvy and Mather wants to produce braver work for Guinness,

its flagship client. Guinness has sanctioned this desire, and is

spending enough to make it count in the marketplace, but it has not put

in place the kind of structures that are necessary to make a proper go

of it. If it had, such unseemly wrangles between Guinness Brewing and

its parent company would never happen. Strange, because you would think

the brewer would have learned its lesson following last year’s furore

when it withdrew an ad showing two gay men.



O&M should mirror, for Guinness, the structures it has in place to

create Ford’s ads, most of which are sanctioned in person by Ford’s

canny chairman, Ian McAllister. For if any agency can prove it can

produce its best and most effective work without access to the very

highest level of the client company, I will happily trumpet its heretic

theories here.



Now Guinness, trousers round its ankles, has been forced to launch a

review of who holds ultimate responsibility for its advertising. Will

they ever learn?



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