Guinness seeks single global shop

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Guinness, the international beer brand owned by London-based alcoholic-beverage giant Diageo, will pick a single global ad agency before Christmas. Jon Potter, the Guinness global brand director who is leading the review, will hear pitches next week from Abbott Mead Vickers/ BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi, both London.

Guinness said last week that it spent $325 million worldwide on advertising and promotion during its last fiscal year, ended June 30. However, only about $75 million is spent on advertising, divided largely between AMV/BBDO, with the $30 million U.K. account, and Saatchi, whose portion is valued at about $21 million.

The review was prompted by a corporate mandate to align globally and a desire to replicate in other markets the creative work that AMV/BBDO and Saatchi now do for Guinness in the U.K. and the Africa and Caribbean regions, respectively. Guinness will drop its other four agencies, including North American shop Weiss, Staliano & Partners, New York; Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, which handles Singapore and Malaysia; London agency HHCL (Ireland) and Frohling Werbeagentur (Germany).

"Moving to a single global agency will allow us to develop new and groundbreaking advertising in all of our markets, not simply in two or three," Guinness's Mr. Potter said. "Given the global diversity of the Guinness brand in terms of geography and format, this move will not necessarily lead to a single creative execution globally. If, over time, we are convinced that there is opportunity to do this, naturally we would consider it."

Media, handled locally by various agencies, is not in review. In Guinness's biggest market, the U.K., independent media specialist Carat handles the account.

Global alignment was likely after parent company Diageo's merger earlier this year of its spirits and beer businesses, UDV and Guinness. UDV several years ago assigned specific brands globally to J. Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett and Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Agency execs said Guinness considered adding one or more of those agencies to the review but decided to stick with its two biggest shops, AMV/BBDO and Saatchi.

Guinness cited three criteria for the pitch: a track record in developing outstanding creative work across markets, expertise with global brands and a global network.

HIGH CREATIVE PROFILE

In the U.K., Guinness has reveled in the high creative profile that AMV/BBDO's work has brought the company, leading most to believe that BBDO will walk away with the global business. A blockbuster U.K. commercial for Guinness called "Surfer" won more creative awards this year than any other commercial in the world, according to the Gunn Report (AA, Nov. 20), an international ranking of agencies and advertisers by creative awards won.

Saatchi has done creative, but less well-known, work in Africa. One series of long Guinness commercials features a James Bond-like black character named Michael Power who races speedboats and narrowly escapes explosions to rescue hijacked airline passengers from evil Hector Dexter. It is so popular that some West African TV stations have run the whole 20-minute campaign consecutively as programming.

Copyright December 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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