OPINION: O&M faces a tough time in the fight for Guinness

It is difficult to explain rationally the significance of the Guinness account within the advertising industry. Perhaps it’s the fact the company has used only four agencies on the brand since it began advertising in the 1920s; perhaps it’s because Guinness relies on interesting, quirky advertising appropriate to a unique product people either love or hate.

It is difficult to explain rationally the significance of the

Guinness account within the advertising industry. Perhaps it’s the fact

the company has used only four agencies on the brand since it began

advertising in the 1920s; perhaps it’s because Guinness relies on

interesting, quirky advertising appropriate to a unique product people

either love or hate.



Guinness has always been a high-spending account - which helps. But it’s

not that high spending. At present, the total is around pounds 12

million a year and there are many other accounts that spend as much, if

not more, that are less highly prized.



More importantly, Guinness has consistently bought good advertising.



It has, in succession, been the flagship account of S. H. Benson, J.

Walter Thompson, Allen Brady and Marsh and - for the past 12 years -

Ogilvy & Mather. In turn, it has helped broaden the definition of what

each of those agencies stood for.



O&M has created some outstanding advertising for the brand,

appropriately polarising opinion. This includes the black and white

campaign itself - mystifying to some, but to others among the most

refreshing work on television today. Sadly, it was never to recover from

its ignominious launch and the furore surrounding the ’gay kiss’ ad that

never ran. It’s a shame on both counts: partly because it nevertheless

achieved Guinness’s highest advertising recall figures, and partly

because the ’gay kiss’ ad was the best in the series.



The pitch will be a major challenge for the competing agencies, but a

desperate one for O&M. It is difficult to see the agency retaining the

account under circumstances where it appears the relationship has broken

down. In these cases, it is always difficult for the incumbent agency’s

management (cf Saatchi & Saatchi and the British Airways pitch), but it

will have to take part. And it will have to steel itself for the

terrible blow of defeat. It would be nice to be proved wrong.



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