Alcoholic brands are poised to take a major hit as more people stay home and avoid bars during the coronavirus pandemic. But the brand facing the most immediate challenge is Guinness—because it relies heavily on St. Patrick’s Day revelry that has been severely muted as the virus spreads. Chicago and New York are among the major cities that have postponed parades that normally draw thousands of people into city streets and eventually into bars.
On Friday, Guinness made the best of the situation with a unifying ad from Philadelphia-based agency Quaker City Mercantile. The spot never specifically mentions coronavirus, but the ad alludes to the fact that the holiday won’t be the same this year. “Don’t worry, we’ll march again,” says an Irish-accented voiceover against parade and party scenes that this year are unlikely to occur, including Chicago’s tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green, which has been postponed.
The ad goes on to say that “on St. Patrick’s Day we are all Irish, but let’s not forget that every day, we are all human. What matters is being with people you care about. Whether you are planning to safely celebrate at the pub, or hosting at home, if you can call the people around you friends or family, you’ve already won. When you raise a pint of Guinness, also remember to raise each other up.”
Jay Sethi, who oversees Guinness as the chief marketing officer for Diageo Beer Co., answers questions about the campaign below in an interview conducted via email.
What led you to create this ad?
Well in truth, we had big plans and hoped to be celebrating more! But given the issues we are all currently dealing with, we knew it was important to send a different message. This is one of the blessings of being over 260 years old. Over time, we’ve learned there are good times and tough times, but purposeful brands come back stronger.
So this is a message in line with our brand’s values of goodness, communion and resilience. We want to encourage people to be safe, and as they raise a pint this weekend, we hope they’ll raise each other up too.
How much of a business hit do you anticipate taking this St. Paddy’s Day, with parades cancelled and people being told to stay home? Any way to make that up?
We know there will be a business impact—especially short term in bars and restaurants—but there’s nothing quite like a Guinness pint, so we’ll always be optimistic about the future. Plus, we know people will be celebrating more at home with loved ones, and Guinness is a great partner for food, either paired with so many different dishes, or even used in recipes.
How challenging was it putting this ad together in a short amount of time? Any details you can share about how it came together? In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, some ad shoots are being affected, but it looks like this spot used all historical or stock footage, right?
It was definitely a challenge to turn this around so quickly, but the decision to do it was easy and one that everyone quickly aligned on. We were able to use historical footage, so we didn’t have to shoot anything new, and we were able to focus on getting the words right. Our Guinness team and agency partners worked incredibly hard over the past few days, but there wasn’t one minute when it didn’t seem worth it. This experience actually brought us even closer together, and we’re all committed to this just being the first step in our efforts to help the communities we serve.