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.