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
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?