ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - Guinness

As a kid, the campaign indelibly imprinted on my memory comprised the legendary Guinness posters by Gilroy. I was enthralled by the endless vitality, variety of the work, the good-natured cheer and sheer optimism. I was engaged and looked forward to the next subject being posted.

If this advertising was attractive to me as a schoolboy, imagine the appeal it had for drinkers. Understandably, Guinness tapped into the Gilroy heritage for its first TV commercial (2). This appeared on the opening night of ITV, a spot entitled "A Guinness poster comes to life". A sea-lion steals his keeper's pint and waddles off with it. The keeper exclaims: "My goodness, my Guinness." Today, it seems leaden-footed but in an age when watching the test-card was a precursor to an evening's viewing, it probably entertained and charmed.

We now fast-forward to 1987 and the Rutger Hauer campaign (3). Guinness is not a session beer. Not for the conformist, it's for individuals who are happy to stand out from the crowd in the knowledge that they, like the product, are unique. Illustrating the drinker's characteristics of independence, masculinity and mystery, the enigmatic Hauer hit a home run. The advertising stood out like the product; an essential requirement in all Guinness work. The consumers were engaged, fascinated and persuaded.

Any Guinness drinker knows the "anticipation" of savouring our hero (4).

The thought sets the taste-buds racing. A man dancing around his pint pays homage to the product in a playful way. It's irreverent and, although centre-stage, the pint is not placed on a metaphysical podium. It's there to be drunk and enjoyed.

The next ad, "fish", makes the cut for originality and difference (5).

The spot draws from feminist graffiti: "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." It was populated with women doing men's work. Quite what the young male drinker made of all this, I'm in no position to know.

Back on safer ground or, should I say, water is "swimblack" (6). This makes a positive of the 119.5 seconds it takes to pour a perfect pint, declaring that: "Good things come to those who wait." A swimmer races around a harbour against the pouring of a pint of Guinness. The swimmer wins again. With its high production values, this is the precursor to perhaps the best, and certainly the most popular, Guinness ad.

It features surfers waiting for the perfect wave (1). Dramatic shots of crashing waves prompt thoughts of the product.

The crests of the waves turn from figurative white horses to the real thing, evoking thoughts of power and beauty. A tour de force in concept and execution. It won every ad prize in sight and Channel 4 viewers voted it their favourite in The Greatest TV Ads.

Maybe these six commercials aren't everybody's favourites, but few brands have such a fine body of work from which to choose, nor a brand where everyone has a view about its work. For everybody somehow feels that they own Guinness advertising. The standard was set by Gilroy and decades of professionals have largely maintained this standard. I salute them all and continue to look forward with childlike anticipation to the next Guinness ad.

Meanwhile, I raise my glass in celebration of ITV's 50th birthday and to the genius of my favourite brand.

1. GUINNESS Title: Surfer Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Year: 1999 2. GUINNESS Title: Sea-lion Agency: SH Bensons Year: 1955 3. GUINNESS Title: Rutger Hauer - dolphin Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Year: 1987 4. GUINNESS Title: Anticipation Agency: Arks Year: 1994 5. GUINNESS Title: Fish Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Year: 1997 6. GUINNESS Title: Swimblack Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Year: 1998

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