The Art of Selling Beer

Art and beer may not be as natural a pair as rhythm and blues, but ever since John Gilroy's "My Goodness, My Guinness" posters hit the scene in the 1930s, Guinness has been elevating their advertising to the status of high art. One particularly noteworthy campaign, of which many Americans are not even aware, is the "Good Things Come to Those Who Wait" TV ad series (1998-2007), which included "Swimblack," "Surfer," "Bet on Black," "Dreamer," "noitulovE," "Fridge," "Hands," and "Tipping Point." Five of the eight highly-acclaimed ads by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO are featured after the jump.

1. "Swimblack"

Premiere Date: May 16, 1998 Director: Jonathan Glazer Music: "Mambo #5" Awards: Creative Circle, Gold Medal "Best Editing" (1998), Gold Medal "Alcoholic Beverages," British Television Advertising Awards (1998)

"Swimblack" was the lighthearted introduction to the "Good Things Come to Those Who Wait" campaign depicting an aging local sports hero's annual swimming race from an offshore buoy to his brother's seafront bar. We discover the old man's not racing a clock, rather a pint of Guinness being poured at the bar, a process that (allegedly) takes 119.5 seconds if done properly. The rich footage was shot in Monopoli, Italy using actual town locals as extras. The spot was well received and director Jonathan Glazer was brought on to direct the follow up, "Surfer."

2. "Surfer" (extended version)

Premiere Date: March 17, 1999 Director: Jonathan Glazer Music: "Phat Planet" performed by Leftfield Award(s): Clio (1999), D&AD (1999), Gold Lion (Cannes, 1999), "Best Ad of All Time," Sunday Times/Channel 4 (2002)

We wish this ad was 90 minutes long instead of 90 seconds. (How many commercials have you said that about?) Voted "Best Ad of All Time" by the British public, this particularly haunting version of man vs. sea centers on a group of Polynesian surfers in Hawaii. At one point the narrator references Moby Dick ("Ahab says, 'I don't care who you are, here's to your dream.'"), but this line doesn't appear anywhere in Melville's novel. Be sure to expand to full screen before viewing. This is one that will stick with you.

3. "Bet on Black"

Premiere Date: January 2000 Director: Frank Budgen Music: Unkown, but we like it Award: Silver Lion, Film (Cannes 2000)

The third installment in the campaign returns to the cultural richness and fun of "Swimblack" with a snail race in an unknown town, presumably of Latin American origin. Beautifully shot with an unexpected twist.

4. "noitulovE"

Premiere Date: October 3, 2005 Director: Jonathan Glazer Music: "The Rhythm of Life," Sweet Charity (1966), performed by Sammy Davis Jr. Awards: Gold Lion, (Cannes, 2006), 3 Clios (2006), 2 Golden Sharks (2006), Special Jury Prize, Imagina Awards (2006)

The fifth installment in the campaign proposed "Good Things Come To Those Who Wait ... 500 million years" and was perhaps the most popular with mainstream audiences. The spot follows the de-evolution of three patrons from their first sip of Guinness in a London pub, through the Edwardian period, Bronze Age, Ice Age, as they transform into apes, and so forth, until we finally see them as salamander-like creatures taking their first sip of muddy water - spitting it out - and thinking, in their wee primordial brains "There has got to be something better!"

Side note: Not long after, The Simpsons aired its "Evolution of Homer" episode opener. Coincidence? Of course, both could have been influenced by Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2003). Or Charles Darwin. There's always that guy.

5. "Tipping Point"

Premiere Date: November 13, 2007 Director: Nicolai Fuglsig Music: "Spanish Dance No. 6" Awards: Silver, London International Awards (2008), Bronze Film, Cannes Lions (2008), "Craft Merit," ADC Awards (2008), Gold and Silver, Clio Awards (2008), Bronze Television, Andy Awards (2008), Bronze and "Diploma," BTAA (2008), Gold Film, Epica Awards (2007)

With a budget of over $10 million dollars, the final installment of the campaign is still the most expensive Guinness commercial ever made. This "celebration of community" features hundreds of villagers (none of whom had ever appeared in front of a camera before), 6,000 black and white dominoes, 10,000 books, 400 tires, 75 mirrors, 50 refrigerators, 45 wardrobes and 6 cars, all toppling in a domino effect that culminates in ... well, you'll have to watch. Setting the "dominos" up: 2 days. Knocking 'em down: Less than 60 seconds. Ouch.

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