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A Love Letter to Guinness Advertising

What makes Guinness always worth the wait?

By Elliot Leavy

Happy St. Patricks Day. It makes sense to look at one of the world’s most creative brands and what it is that makes it so great. We're talking, of course, about the black stuff — Guinness.

The Irish stout has an advertising legacy not many brands could match. It is now one of every ten pints sold in London on any given day. We asked Nadja Lossgott and Nicholas Hulley, joint chief creative officers at AMV BBDO (which has been working with Guinness for 24 years now), what the secret behind the great Guinness work, and why the brand continues to be such a staple in popular culture.

“Only Guinness could, only Guinness would.” says Nadja. “This is the mantra we try to hold up when it comes to creating work for Guinness.” This sentiment, she adds, comes from respect for the brand: “Guinness is the iconic pint that anybody can draw with a pen, and because of this legacy, it can live and trade in culture.”

It is this legacy which inspired Guinness’ post-lockdown campaign 'Welcome Back'. Not only did it play with the beverage’s distinctive assets, it also worked in conjunction with the brand’s historical streamline, 'Good things come to those who wait'. The work proved to be one of the most talked-about spot when the nation was emerging from lockdown.

Why was this work so well received? “The best Guinness ads have a humanity to them,” says Nick. "They're always beautifully made — but the best ones have that magic as well.” He explains that creating great work for Guinness, includes three key stakeholders: the client, the agency and the public. “The public want good Guinness advertising, and they are the first to let you know when it misses the mark."

For the fans of the brand, its story is a huge part of their own experience: “The two guys from Purse are celebrities in the rugby world now. We saw them at an England/Wales game, and they were the most popular guys there.”

For both Nick & Nadja, Guinness advertising takes a boldness, grounded in humanity, to make the best work.

Let’s take a look of some of the best campaigns by the Irish brew that hit the spot.

Welcome Back (2021)

The power of distinctive assets was made clear as day in this post-lockdown spot for Guinness, reminding us all of missing a pint of the black stuff. At the time, Neil Shah, head of Guinness Great Britain said:“The campaign was inspired by that all-too-familiar experience of seeing something we miss everywhere we look - in this case, a pint of Guinness, in a pub, with our mates.”

Purse (2019)

Purse is a tale of two brothers who mourn their mother by honouring her dying wish to spend their inheritance on the Six Nations.

Humorous till the end, but thoughtful all the same, this story sits in that magic space between the brand and society as a whole.

Sapeurs, (2014)

Guinness is a brand that is universally adored, so it makes sense for the brand to delve into some other places outside of the British Isles.

In 'Sapeurs', Guinness follows the Sapeurs whose way of life is a testament to the belief of putting more in, to get more out — a key message from St. James Brewery mapped onto life in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.

Guinness Clear (2019)

The understated style of Guinness, be that reflected in its strapline of "worth the wait" or in the effortlessly cool lives of the Sapeurs, is once again reflected in this work, "Guinness Clear" to encourage people to drink less.

A playful exaggeration of luxury drinks brands advertising, the spot ends with "Sometimes less is more" — a lesson we could all keep in mind today of all days.

The Surfer (1999)

It is impossible to talk about Guinness advertising without mentioning this hallmark of a spot. "The Surfer", one of Britain's most acclaimed spots of all time, was inspired by Walter Crane's 1893 painting "Neptune's Horses" and is overlaid with a beat by Leftfield which would later form the basis of their track "Phat Planet". The result, an absolute classic.

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