Opinion: Beale on ... Guinness Draught Extra Cold

Guinness, a man I know says, is not a drink. It's a religion. He has just sent off for a pair of Guinness flip-flops, which could well be making their debut on Bijou Beach this Cannes. If you see him, proudly flip-flopped, no need to swerve ... he is harmless.

The man isn't alone in his obsession. There is something about the black-and-white stuff that gets all sorts of juices flowing. It's not just the taste. Somewhere in a house near you there are mantelpieces creaking under Royal Doulton Toucan Big Chiefs, or Wade Guinness Tweedledum and Tweedledee figurines; spare rooms dedicated to Guinness dartboard cabinets, framed beermats and classic posters ("If he can say as you can, Guinness is good for you, How grand to be a Toucan, Just think what Toucan do."); Guinness-aproned wives seasoning with Guinness cruet sets.

Now Guinness buffs have something new to chew on over their pints: a series of ads that pay homage to some of the brand's landmark campaigns from the past decade or two. Guinness and its agency, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, have revisited five classic ads from the archives: dancing man is back, Rutger Hauer is back, the bicycle-riding fish is back, the surfers are back, the snail is back. It's an aficionado's wet dream.

Resurrection has been effected in the name of brand extension. The ads promote Guinness Extra Cold. So the dancing man of "anticipation" is a dancing Eskimo, the cycling fish is battling through a snow storm, Hauer is over-coated in "nice weather for penguins", the snail gets cold feet and the surfers lose their cool in the icy water. Rumour is the original script had them hunting worriedly in their trunks for their frozen assets.

Now plenty of people in the ad industry have a theory about why Guinness is playing out its old ad strategies. Mostly these theories are about the failure of AMV to keep coming back with better and better advertising.

And although everybody at the time went knees bent before "surfer", plenty now take pleasure in claiming it just didn't sell pints. As for the recent "out of darkness comes light" ad, well, no argument: insignificant froth at the bottom of the Guinness advertising barrel.

All of which is completely irrelevant with regard to how this new series will play at point- of-pint purchase. But will drinkers be wise to what's going on, smugly recognise these nods to the past, and "mine's an Extra Cold"? Older, confirmed Guinnessers surely will. And the ads do a nice job of allowing what is (for some die hards) an heretical sibling to the Guinness nectar ride high on the Guinness heritage.

For younger drinkers - who represent the real growth area - the ads might have less resonance. "Rutger who?" I'm not sure this matters much, though. With thanks to Anatole France: "When a thing has been said and well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it." With the exception of "snails" and "surfer" (which are, anyway, the most recent and remembered) the ads work perfectly as standalone fresh work.

You don't need to be a flip-flopped Guinness geek to smack your lips over these little vignettes. They're smart and fun and an enjoyable prick into an advertising oeuvre that has, at times, taken itself too seriously.

I've seen several of the ads crammed into a single break, which works beautifully and, even better, they're booze ads but there's not a football in sight.

Feel, though, for the AMV creatives. By reminding us all of some of its advertising highlights, Guinness has done the team responsible for the next work no favours. Cheers.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Not this time round.

File under ... H for humorous homage.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Mine's a pint."

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