Guinness ousts O&M from high profile U.K. account

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LONDON -- U.K.-based drinks marketer Guinness has ousted Ogilvy & Mather, London, from the high profile $20 million U.K. ad account for the bitter-tasting black stout drink of the same name. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, London, is the victor, in a pitch that included fellow London agencies HHCL, TBWA Simons Palmer and O&M.

O&M had held the account for 12 years and was just the fifth incumbent in the 65 years for which the product has been advertised.

The move was based on a need to maintain Guinness' reputation for innovation, the company says, and does not impact O&M, Hong Kong's hold on the Guinness brand in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, U.K. observers claim the move was also due to a deterioration in the client-agency relationship in the U.K., where some of the most recent ads caused Guinness unwelcome controversy.

Jonathan Miller, Guinness' external communications manager, stresses that the change in the U.K. won't cause the Singapore-based marketing team for Asia- Pacific, lead by Director Jon Eggleton, to call a formal review for advertising activity in that region, "so long as the strategy is fulfilling the objectives there." But, he adds. "we are constantly reviewing our marketing strategy. It's an ongoing process."

Guinness stout is the flagship brand in Asia-Pacific for the company (now part of Diageo). Its other key products include the Tiger, Kilkenny and Harp beers. Company turnover in the region has moved from $494 million in 1994 to $591 million in 1996.

Advertising is developed locally, but O&M's successful London-created theme of "Man with a Guinness" has in the past been adapted to feature local stars in Asia- Pacific.

HHCL, London, last year was appointed to the Guinness account in Ireland, where the drink originated, taking over from Arks, Dublin, but the brand is not advertised above-the-line in mainland Europe.

AMV BBDO's creative proposals for the U.K. will now be put into research, with first ads planned to appear by the middle of the year. The agency's task is to attract new drinkers and increase stout's share of the total beer market, currently standing at 5.2%. Guinness claims the brand is in growth and showing record 83.7% leadership of the U.K. stout sector, up from just below 80% five years ago.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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