We have our likes and dislikes. Our virtues and our flaws. Our passing thoughts and our CLAWING OBSESSIONS.
One is George W. Bush, one of history's great fools, who makes us literally tremble with disgust. Another is the Philadelphia Phillies, to whom we have devoted more time over five decades than to any actual human relationship and harvested mainly heartbreak in return.
Then there's "King Rat," a very good James Clavell novel turned 1965 film masterpiece by director Bryan Forbes-a movie scarcely noticed in its day or ever since. We seethe at the obliviousness of the capsule-review writers of the world.
Finally, there is Guinness Draught, the velvety Irish beer with the ebony color, malty bouquet and creamy tan head. It is God's nectar. It is, as we've written so many times over the years, an ice cream cone in a glass. But we are not obsessed with Guinness because we love it. We are obsessed on "King Rat" grounds: It doesn't have the adoration it deserves. At least not here.
In Ireland and the U.K., where Guinness owns about 112% of the stout segment, it is well-loved and universally understood. That's why when we last addressed the brand (While obsession grips us, it does not own us. We have not written about Guinness since last week) we were able to award four stars to Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO for merely brilliantly reiterating the benefits of the slow Guinness draw.
But in North America, where the importer has never bothered to explain Guinness's essential ice-cream-cone-ness, the advertising is the entire problem.
There was one brief interlude, three years ago, when BBDO, New York, had it almost right. That was a minimalist campaign announcing bottled Guinness, a striking bit of art direction that hinted sufficiently-if not specifically-at the brand's special qualities. And, lo and behold, sales nudged upward. As they have ever since.
Big deal. Of course sales continue to be nudged upward. Guinness is like truffles and pornography; anyone who samples is likely to come back for more. But there is simply no reason for its paltry 1.5% share of the U.S. beer market.
Oh, wait. Yes there is. The reason is the current campaign: two paper-cutout Irish brewmasters who have been animated sampling Guinness at picnics and other events where stout is seldom found-most recently: a Wisconsin football game. (Hold your sides. Hilarity is about to ensue.)
Brewmaster 1: "I do enjoy drinking Guinness at a tailgating party."
Brewmaster 2: "Yes, and I've discovered the local custom is to wear cheese on your head! And so, to fit in, I brought along some wholesome Limburger!"
Brewmaster 1: "Limburger cheeseheads? Brilliant!"
Brewmaster 2: "Brilliant!"
Can you stand it? "Brilliant," of course, is their infectious catchphrase, on the lips of every American beer drinker. But there's more, because-get this-the stinky cheese nauseates the other tailgaters! Incredibly, the Limburger gag has lost none of its punch since the Three Stooges used it, again and again, from 1940-1952.
Granted, the transcendent U.K. advertising wouldn't likely work here, because it depends on the public's familiarity with stout. The question is: Why in the world aren't BBDO and Diageo Importers acquainting us with what the Irish and Brits already know:
That Guinness is creamy and delicious, like no other beer?
Heineken is good, but it isn't an ice cream cone in a glass. Depriving the public of Guinness's essence, while screwing around with quaint animated Irishmen, is simply unfathomable. Also incompetent. Also, like our embarrassment of a president, decidedly un-brilliant!
Review 1.5 stars
Location: New York