Editorial: Guinness needs to trust its gut feeling

The weird and wonderful world of Guinness that Rutger Hauer fronted in the late 80s and early 90s is making a comeback (Campaign, 30 April).

Remember the emotive combination of Brueghel's Tower of Babel and Louis Armstrong's We Have All the Time in the World? It really was "pure genius".

Nevertheless, the decision to adapt and reuse its iconic advertising of old is a strange one, not least because much of the youth market that Guinness is so desperately trying to attract is too young to recall the original campaign.

The tension between Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and its Guinness client is well documented. Reports vary, but it is known that the agency produced an impossible amount of creative ideas before eventually persuading Guinness that the current ad, "moth", was good enough to shoot.

Now it seems both Guinness and AMV are looking with nostalgic warmth at past ads and thinking that rehashing them to support Guinness Extra Cold over the summer will offer both sides temporary respite from their constant search for the elusive next campaign.

Of course, neither will ever admit, even to themselves, that this is their motivation. Indeed, Guinness' PR claims it is merely "paying homage" to its previous advertising.

The main reason things have gone pear-shaped is that Guinness' market is declining. Volume sales fell by 3 per cent in the second half of last year because young people find the drink too heavy and too warm. Guinness is attempting to address this through new product development, hence the forthcoming promotion of its Extra Cold variant. In addition to this, "surfer", though loved by ad addicts and awards juries, did not sell enough of the black stuff. Since then, Guinness has got tough and the results have been creatively weakened: "dream club", complete with clunky product shots, "believe", created for an international market, and now "moth", which is simply bland.

But there are also problems at Diageo. The company employs one of the most able teams of marketers in the country (something attributed to the former IDV marketing director Tony Schooler). However, Diageo's agencies concur that this talent is curtailed by the company's obsession with process.

It attempts to measure creative ideas, inevitably killing them off in the process.

Ogilvy & Mather's "pure genius" campaign, and much of AMV's earlier work for Guinness, relied on gut-feel, not market research. If Guinness is going to return to glory, it needs to get back in touch with its gut.

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