Can BBDO's New Guinness Work Turn That Around?

By Published on .

Marketer: Diageo
Brand: Guinness Beer
Agency: BBDO Worldwide, New York
Star Rating: 3.5

Here's what America has embraced from Ireland: Bono, Lords of the Dance and The Commitments. Here's what America doesn't

Bottle openers in strange places.
much care for, thank you very much: Guinness stout.

One reason is that stout is a heavy, black ale -- sort of the anti-Bud. It looks bitter and intimidating, like a pint of warm tar. Bollocks. In fact, Guinness is rich and velvety with a distinctive flavor that is maybe a bit piquant but not really bitter. And it has a creamy head and malty bouquet that transparent pilsner could never touch. It is, in short, an ice cream cone in a glass.

Furthermore, by some miracle of proprietary Guinness brewing and packaging, it actually is just as good poured slowly out of a can or -- now -- a bottle as it is on tap.

Free plug
All right, the free ad ends there -- but, jeez, someone had to say it. The other reason America won't embrace stout is that Guinness has been bizarrely unwilling to show its true face. Up until the marvelous new campaign from BBDO, New York, advertising didn't even acknowledge -- much less promote -- the product's special character. Instead, ads ran away from stout's unique selling proposition, to position it as ... well, hard to say.

A recent Guinness spot from Weiss Stagliano Partners, New York, showed some young guy with a creepy grin imagining himself on a subway train with "Carmina Burana" blaring in the background. Much grinning took place until, eventually the train burst out of its underground tunnel and into the bright and colorful outdoors. Think: the U.S. Marine Corps campaign meets Glade deodorizer.

A beer apart
So thank goodness for BBDO and its willingness to at least imply that Guinness is a special beer-drinking experience, one to savor and to call your own. Three new spots don't blather on about the flavor -- assuming, perhaps, that straight talk about genuine differentiation would be dismissed as beer-ad boilerplate -- but they do strikingly establish the brand as a beer apart.

Triumphs of understatement in a category accustomed to breathless puffery, the three 15-second blackouts simply show bottle openers mounted in surprising places: on a bathroom wall, next to the toilet paper; in a hot-running shower; plastered into the cast on some guy's broken leg. Then, in each spot, we see someone -- anyway, the arm of someone -- pop open a bottle.

"Now enjoy Guinness anywhere," the voice-over says. "Authentic Guinness Draft in a bottle."

Tooting Irish hornpipe
And that's it. These are basically outdoor posters on film with a modicum of action and a quiet Irish hornpipe tooting in the background. In their locked-camera minimalism, the spots are reminiscent of the long-running campaign for Corona beer. In fact, this work pretty much is the Corona campaign, minus the sunshine.

But if Corona is all about quiet escape, this campaign is about quiet devotion to something special.

We'd ourselves be happier if they slow-poured the foamy nectar -- to let the uninitiated see the difference between a brewski and liquid dessert -- but the strategy seems to be to convert the occasional pub consumer of Guinness to six-pack purchaser. So we'll have to be satisfied with the unapologetic shot of the ebony bottle, which itself speaks volumes. Like that fellow in The Commitments says about his R&B band:

It's black and it's proud.

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