Guinness Unspools Feature Film

Brewer bows pic based on character from ad campaign

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%%Guinness has turned celebrity product endorsement on its head.

Instead of a famous actor from an action thriller appearing in a beer ad, a character from a long-running Guinness advertising campaign in Africa is starring in a feature-length film bankrolled by Diageo, the stout's U.K. owner. The movie premiered this week in several African cities ahead of a pan-African release. The movie may be shown outside Africa and the concept of using a character from an ad campaign in a movie may be replicated in other regions such as Asia.

And not surprisingly for a brand known for some of the world's top commercials, Guinness hasn't skimped on the production of "Michael Power: Critical Assignment." A 100-strong film crew spent three months%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% filming in 40 locations including Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

Saatchi & Saatchi created the Michael Power character in a commercial that first aired in 1999. A string of five-minute, action-thriller style ads became so popular that cash-strapped TV stations in Africa sometimes aired the ads as free programming.

According to Guinness, over the last four years Michael Power has become a positive figure who does not carry a gun or resort to violence, but overcomes obstacles through perseverance and inner strength. Africa is one of the fastest growing geographies for Guinness worldwide.

Celia Couchman, the film's executive producer and a director of U.K.-based White Tiger Management, was marketing director for Guinness Africa from 1996-2000 and was responsible for the original Michael Power campaign.

The idea for a full-blown movie arose from market research. #8220;Consumers said Michael Power should be in a movie," Couchman said. "We had to create a film that had the integrity of a film. One thing we were not going to do was create one long ad. It had to be entertainment and not advertising."

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