The timing of Guinness’ decision to put its pounds 12m ad account
up for pitch has surprised many in the industry.
After all, this is the year in which Guinness achieved its highest ever
share of the UK beer market and its current ad campaign, ’Black and
White’, has gained the brand its highest ad awareness to date.
So why has Guinness decided to call time on a campaign which has
achieved such results?
As the incumbent agency of 12 years Ogilvy & Mather pointed out in the
current campaign, not everything in black and white makes sense.
O&M would be justified in feeling hard done by as it must now see off
Abbott Mead Vickers, TBWA Simons Palmer and HHCL & Partners, the agency
already responsible for advertising Guinness in Ireland, if it is to
retain its hold on one of the UK’s most famous ad accounts.
Yet, the ultimate irony is that it is the recent success of the brand -
and the cult appeal of the advertising - which lies at the heart of the
decision to review.
The company believes the present campaign has run its course and the
onus is now on the Guinness marketing team to find the creative idea to
replace it. Yet it is a delicate task. Get it wrong and the negative
publicity could be overwhelming.
Two years ago, Marketing revealed that Guinness was planning to run an
ad featuring a gay kiss, as part of the ’Black and White’ campaign. The
ad was pulled but the ensuing uproar reminded Guinness executives of the
power of its advertising. It also dealt a blow to its long-standing
relationship with O&M, which it blamed for the leak.
Guinness Brewing is more aware than ever of the profound role that
advertising plays in persuading consumers - particularly the crucial
under-35 market - to drink a brand which is, after all, something of an
When the company launched the ’Man with the Guinness’ campaign in 1987,
two-thirds of Guinness drinkers were over 35. By 1992, the majority were
younger drinkers and the company is keen to ensure it stays that
’Advertising is a key driver for us,’ says Andy Fennell, marketing
controller for stouts at Guinness Brewing GB. ’Guinness is never the
beneficiary of a default purchase; you either want a Guinness or you
don’t, and advertising is key to developing that desire.’
Although Guinness is enjoying its highest share of the UK beer market to
date - 5.2% this year compared with 4.4% in 1995 - the company is still
aggressively pursuing a larger chunk of the market.
Guinness Brewing is at a crossroads following the merger of parent
company, Guinness Plc, with Grand Met. The iconoclasm of the Guinness
brand has also clashed with the conservatism of the parent firm. The
merger, and the decision to create the new company Diageo, frees the
brewing division from the constraints of its brand name.
Yet paradoxically, the key to growing draught Guinness’ share of the UK
market may be to move from its current ’contemplative’ positioning to
become more mainstream.
Alcohol by volume
The beer industry remains fiercely competitive, and industry-wide
volumes are expected to drop by as much as 2% by the end of the year.
Although Guinness is the dominant brand within the stout market, with
83% share, it is also competing with lagers, hybrid ales and alcopops
for a place in the portfolio of its core target market.
Furthermore, Guinness Brewing, with no retail division, needs to remain
strong in its own market if its to retain its position in the pubs of
Last November, Scottish & Newcastle withdrew draught Guinness from 2600
of its pubs in favour of it own Beamish and Gillespie brands. Whitbread
is also pitching its Murphy’s brand against Guinness in many of its own
’There is no reason why we can’t significantly improve on our current
position,’ says Fennell. ’It is because we have very stretching demands
in terms of growth that we are always looking at means to extend the
The problem is that, after two years, consumers are losing interest in
the ’Black & White’ campaign. And, for a brand whose advertising strives
to become a talking point in the pubs in which it is served, consumer
complacency is a real threat.
’We want to review things before we’re in the corner,’ says Fennell.
’That is how we’ve grown the brand in the past, by constantly looking at
ways to leap forward and never becoming complacent.’
1928: Guinness started advertising using the slogan ’Guinness is good
1955: The first Guinness television commercial appeared.
1969: The ’Talking Toucan’ was introduced. The advertising theme
continued until 1983.
1983: The ’Guinnless’ campaign was launched and achieved 87% of
awareness among all adults within three months.
1987: The ’Man with the Guinness’ campaign launched. It ran for seven
years and contained 21 different executions.
1995: Guinness Brewing GB launched the Irish ad campaign ’Anticipation’
in the UK following delays in the production of the ’Black and White’
commercials. It subsequently ran from November 1994 to March 1996 after
research showed the ad was extremely popular in the UK market.