O&M fills beer gap with Harp triumph

Ogilvy & Mather has finally filled the gap left when it lost the Guinness account by winning the task of relaunching Harp lager.

Ogilvy & Mather has finally filled the gap left when it lost the

Guinness account by winning the task of relaunching Harp lager.

Harp, the oldest draught lager in Britain, has a rich advertising

heritage, beginning with the famous ’Harp stays sharp to the bottom of

the glass’ campaign, created by Allen Brady & Marsh.

It was the market leader in the 70s and was backed by a budget of more

than pounds 6 million in the 80s.

But the brand has since faced stiff competition from premium lagers with

a more contemporary image and its consumer base is now predominantly in

the Midlands and the North.

O&M has been appointed to overhaul the brand, giving it a younger image

to restore it as a national lager. This is likely to involve ditching

the Irish theme of previous advertising through Publicis.

The work, which will include TV, press, posters and multimedia, will be

tested in the regions with a pounds 2 million spend pending a national

roll-out, which will see a substantially increased budget. The first

campaign will break in May next year.

Guinness launched Harp in the UK in 1961 with a consortium of brewers at

a time when brewers had not started producing lagers of their own.

After years of success with the ’sharp’ campaign, which continued with

’’sharp exit’ when the account moved to BSB Dorland, the brand started

to decline. In 1997, Guinness tried a relaunch, renaming it Harp Irish

Lager and giving it a higher alcohol content.

However, last December Guinness decided to concentrate its marketing

energy behind its flagship stout and handed responsibility for Harp to

the regional brewer, Wolverhampton & Dudley, in a ten-year licensing


O&M picked up the account after a pitch against Delaney Fletcher Bozell

and Walsh Trott Chick Smith, which is on W&DB’s roster with


Paul Simons, the chairman and chief executive of O&M, said: ’This was a

very challenging brief and a fascinating brand issue. Harp has been the

UK’s number one and could be again. The obvious question is how. We are

very excited with the proposed work and are delighted that W&DB decided

on the ideas from Ogilvy.’

The review, handled by Agency Assessments, was called in August when

Publicis resigned the account after ten years, claiming its main

relationship was with Guinness.

’Harp Irish Lager is a key brand in our portfolio and our appointment

demonstrates our commitment. We are very confident we will deliver our

ambitious objectives,’ John Steel, director of lagers for W&DB,


The ’stay sharp’ theme was first used in the early 80s and reintroduced

in the late 80s with the TV personality, Jonathan Ross.

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