CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/GUINNESS; Can O&M produce another winner for Guinness?

There’s a lot riding on the latest Guinness campaign for O&M.

There’s a lot riding on the latest Guinness campaign for O&M.

Rarely has a campaign been so hyped before its launch and rarely has an

agency been so concerned about the outcome. So what have Ogilvy and

Mather and the director, Tony Kaye, put into the new Guinness ads? Women

living in a world without men, an old geezer marrying someone a quarter

of his age, and a fish riding a bicycle.

O&M badly needs applause for this campaign. After working successfully

with Guinness since 1986, last July the Docklands agency found itself

compromised by unwelcome pre-publicity. Reports suggested one execution

was to feature a gay kiss. In fact, the film, entitled ‘men and women’,

was supposed to raise questions - such as, was this a gay kiss or just

two laddish flatmates larking about with a peck on the cheek? In other

films, similar posers flesh out the campaign’s theme of uncertainty,

summarised by the catchline, ‘Not everything in black and white makes


The brouhaha that followed the gay kiss revelations disturbed the

hitherto fairy-tale relationship between O&M and Guinness. Almost

immediately, Guinness put up for review its draught bitter account that

O&M also handled (the agency later retained the business). The client

blamed the agency for the leak, and O&M has kept mum ever since.

Ask Guinness’s marketing director, Julian Spooner, about the ‘gay ad’,

and he twitches visibly. ‘There never was a gay ad,’ he insists.

‘Guinness is for everyone, regardless of creed or colour. It just goes

to show everything you read in black and white doesn’t make sense.’ But

‘men and women’, which was submitted to the London International

Advertising Awards last year, will indeed be aired, sources insist.

‘It’s just a matter of time,’ one whispers. But the peck on the cheek -

which wasn’t on the storyboard, but was added at the suggestion of the

director - may be dropped.

Either way, the question-marks hanging over the execution at this late

stage confirm the criticism from outsiders. ‘There is a feeling that

Guinness has had a period of wandering in the wilderness,’ Nick Murray,

chairman of CIA Conzept, who helped Bass develop Caffrey’s Irish Ale,


After all, the popular film, ‘anticipation’, in which a manic Joe

McKinney danced around his pint while it settled, was just a filler,

brought in from the Irish agency, Arks. ‘Since then,’ Murray notes,

‘Guinness has been tracking around in circles.’

Spooner, however, counters that it was vital to get the cryptic tone of

the ads just so. Hence the delay: ‘It’s a very powerful idea. To get the

edit right, to get the cut right, was crucial. If the ad draws a

conclusion, it fails - it won’t move into those pub conversations.’

Guinness has a history of strong advertising. In 65 years, the stout has

been served by just four agencies - S. H. Benson, J. Walter Thompson,

Allen Brady and Marsh, and O&M. As Alan Midgley, the former O&M joint

creative director and now joint creative director at Foote Cone Belding,

says: ‘It’s the jewel in the crown. It’s the most prized account in the


Not surprising, then, that Tom Bury, O&M’s managing director, makes a

grand claim for the latest work: ‘We think it’s the best advertising

we’ve done for ten years.’ But that’s a heck of a boast. O&M’s previous

‘man with the Guinness’ campaign, starring Rutger Hauer, was hugely

successful. Spanning seven years and 21 commercials, it transformed the

brand’s fortunes. Before 1988, two-thirds of Guinness drinkers were over

35. In 1992, when the Hauer ads were at their peak, two-thirds of its

drinkers were under that age. It took the brand’s share of the total

beer market to previously unseen highs.

But nothing lasts forever. Hauer’s stylish forays ceased to interest the

punters. Or, as Spooner politely puts it: ‘Our research showed that

people were becoming too comfortable with the ads.’

And Guinness doesn’t want people to get ‘comfortable’. Especially not

now the competition has got its act together. Six years ago there was no

serious rival in the stout market. Now, a fifth of pints pulled in

British pubs are from the taps of rival brands such as Murphy’s and


As far as advertising goes, these rivals have concentrated on their

Irish credentials. Guinness leaves that nationalistic approach for

peripheral marketing - sponsoring Irish pubs and the Fleadh. An analyst

at a major bank endorses such self-confidence: ‘Guinness has done well

to avoid the Scottish whisky problem - that it’s all about a pipe and

slippers. That turns young people off.’

Spooner insists the new stouts encouraged an expansion of the whole

stout market rather than damaging Guinness. ‘We are delighted to have a

competitor in the market. Drinkers tend to start with Murphy’s and then

move on to Guinness.’

As Spooner asserts confidently: ‘We are on a real roll. The brand is in

volume growth, though the market is in volume decline.’ Guinness

recently posted its highest ever share of the overall beer market, at

4.4 per cent.

Despite this good news, Spooner is anxious that the new campaign will be

judged without prejudice. ‘It’s a shame there has been so much pre-

publicity. It’s raised everyone’s expectations in the industry - but I

don’t think that’s the case with consumers. I hope and believe it is the

beginning of a long-term campaign, big enough to be developed over