“Guinness, an acquired taste but and acclaimed advertisement”. Write a review for ‘MediaCentury. A retrospective of iconic media texts of the last 100 years’. Analyse, review and comment on this ads impact at the turn of the 21st Century. Adrenalin. Anticipation. Accomplishment. The moments worth waiting for are here enveloped in timeless emotion, power and frenzy encapsulate the core of what it is to be human. The 17th of March 1999 saw the birth of Guinness’ ‘Surfers’ advert, an advert completely inverse to the brash, cheesy broadcasts of the era. It threw aside corporate beauty and played on people’s hearts, gripping viewers in its class and style, aspects which were often absent in other propaganda at the time. Visually and emotionally arresting, this advert is often remembered as a masterpiece.
Occasionally, television adverts have the power to touch the viewer in a way no programme is able to. Television programmes are often a minimum of thirty minutes long and have to reserve the focus of the audience during that time. An advert, however, has only nigh thirty seconds to seize the imagination of its viewers and thus sell their product. Various adverts do this commendably, and as a result reimburse themselves many times over with the inflated revenue that results from additional sales via increased recognition. Many of course, do not succeed in this respect, and are unable to have a significant effect on the general public.
Guinness’ ‘Surfers’ advert was undoubtedly one of the more successful, as was voted number one on the ‘100 Greatest Adverts’ of All Time list and won two awards for its propensity. Its theme, namely that good things come to those who wait, is transpired though all recent Guinness adverts, based on the theory that is takes the 119.5 seconds that it takes to pour a pint of Guinness, and then for it to settle. And so it begins with waiting, focusing on a plain face riddled with lines of age and wisdom. This is no generic beauty, there is nothing stunning about the dark face and anticipating eyes in which we are presented with. Yet it is in fact stunning, to viewers accustomed to prevailing advertising to see such a figure, utilised in a dramatisation meant to coax people into buying a certain product, especially with the common views on what is ‘beautiful’.
This everyday facade immediately commences the aspect of universal feelings to the ad: this man could be any man with a dream. Emotion does not discriminate. The grayscale effect reverberates a timeless capacity, parallelling a photo album of the things we never want to forget. The beat grows into earshot, and is not unlike the sound of desperate heartbeat, coursing through the veins of our surfer as he waits for the wave of a lifetime: “He waits; that’s what he does,” comes the mature, rich tongue of the voice-over, mimicking the flavour and repute of the drink.
This primitive, native-sounding beat to me brings images of an aboriginal drums which correlates to raw, bare emotions and the things that really take importance in life. The rhythm also affixes excitement as it builds up along with the wave that increases in size and strength, until the screen cuts to our surfer and three companions surging thrillingly at the incoming natural phenomenon. The event in itself is awarded the stance of an amazing event in its own right: waves like this only occur for two-three weeks each year.
The surfer and his three friends rush into the dark and foamy sea; bare chests and slight boards. As the wave crashes down, the crest turns effortlessly into giant white horses which plunge upon the surfer and his friends. The camera takes us right into the water, contrasting two elements, one liquid, one muscular and solid, fashioning a powerful battle before our very eyes. There is a mess of hooves, tossing manes, boards and spray, but the wave is conquered, and in their camaraderie, the surfer and his friends run to the shore to celebrate. Time stops: the frame freezes and all is silent as we see the joy and celebrations in the faces and actions of the three conquerors, thus reiterating the sense that some things really are worth waiting for, as if a photo has been taken so the moment can be remembered ceaselessly.
The very theme of the advert, waiting and rewards at a core emotional level works very well when projected aside the drink, the analogy being made between the wait for a perfect wave, and the wait for a pint of Guinness. However, the success of this advert can be arguably limited as the marvel on screen captures readers and diverts them from the matter at hand: advertising the drink. The relation between the advert and the drink i disjointed until the very end, when for a split second a pint of the beverage rolls forwards and back from the screen, like a wave rolling in perhaps.
The only other link with the drink is the black and white hue cast over the entire advert, in the sense that the drink is black with a white head. Nevertheless, it could further be argued that this subtlety makes audiences want to discover the product being advertised, and heightens the viewers attention to it. The success of this advert lies in every aspect of it, from the discharging of countenance of vanity, greed and lust many other adverts choose to play on, to the boring into kernel emotions of the human mind. The advert remains a relic of its kind, timeless in nature and predicament, setting the pathway for future television advertising.