PERSPECTIVE: AMV Guinness win seals position as dominant agency

Michael Baulk, the Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO chief executive, is pretend steely down the phone. ’We don’t like it Stefano, we don’t like it at all. We want it back. We’re going to get it back.’ I’d called last Friday to discuss Guinness, just after we’d heard Abbott Mead had won.

Michael Baulk, the Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO chief executive, is

pretend steely down the phone. ’We don’t like it Stefano, we don’t like

it at all. We want it back. We’re going to get it back.’ I’d called last

Friday to discuss Guinness, just after we’d heard Abbott Mead had

won.



He wanted to talk about the Agency of the Year prize. Come to think of

it, I’m not so sure about ’pretend’.



There are account wins and there’s landing Guinness. Forget the pounds

12 million billing, we all know it’s worth more than cash. We all know

most agencies would swap many new-business gains with larger billings

for Guinness.



The Ogilvy & Mather executive I spoke to that same afternoon sounded

suicidal.



It’s not just the pounds 1 million-plus worth of income (I didn’t speak

to Martin Sorrell!) - Argos, for example, actually bills a little more.

O&M would be upset and annoyed but not suicidal about losing Argos.



Guinness is not just an advertising icon, in Brit-ain it is the

advertising icon. Any student of advertising would have to conclude that

it has been the most consistently excellent advertiser of the century.

Despite the inevitable highs and lows -the black-and-white campaign

probably does not rank among the very best of an incredibly high

standard - it is arguably the brand of the century.



Canary Wharfers may beg to differ, but win Guinness and you inherit a

laudably faithful client. Abbott Mead becomes only the fifth agency

(after O&M, J. Walter Thompson, Allen Brady & Marsh and S. H. Benson) to

win the account since the first ad in 1928.



The work, once humorous, has been over the past two decades consistently

challenging, off-the-wall and enigmatic. This reflects both the

tightening up of advertising regulations (so no more ’Guinness is good

for you’, ’Guinness for strength’ or ’You’ll feel fresher when you’ve

had a Guinness’) and the nature of the product itself. Guinness will

never be to everyone’s taste. How many other clients spending pounds 12

million on a brand give their agencies the freedom to create such

high-profile, audacious work, knowing it will not appeal to

everyone?



As I wrote when the review was announced, the irony is that Guinness’s

sales are at a record high. But that does not appear to be enough for

the client, which clearly feels the recent advertising has not been the

catalyst for this success. It proves that, with such a golden history,

there is a burden of expectation on Guinness work. Not that this will

overly worry the agency that wins it. While we must hope this major

setback does not derail O&M from the excellent all-round improvements it

has been making to its creative output, you can be sure that Guinness

(and probably British Digital Broadcasting) will make Abbott Mead once

again this year’s agency to beat.