Of all the TV advertising that I remember from growing up in the nineties and noughties it’s the Guinness ads that shine brightest in the memory. Sure enough, as soon as I could, I too became a suppliant at the altar of the Black Stuff.
Guinness has been one the most prominently advertised products in the UK for over 85 years now.
Beyond these shores it’s also inspired notable adverts like the original Surfer ad and the award-winning Gaelic skit The Island for the Irish market, and David Ogilvy’s Guinness Guide to Oysters series of advertorials from 1950 for the American market which effectively invented so-called native advertising.
So it’s perhaps a little surprising that these days Guinness tends to make the headlines for being Diageo’s problem child, with sales in long-term decline. Last year The Economist reported Guinness sales had dipped from over 250 million litres in 2008 to under 200 in 2014. In the year up to November 2012 sales were down by 10 million pints.
Which left me with a question: just how effective has Guinness advertising been over the years – and those big-budget epic ads of the noughties especially – in boosting sales? There’s plenty out there on the web about the history of Guinness ads, but less on their impact on the bottom-line.
I’ve had to pull as much data together as possible from newspapers, press statements and trade magazines. And, of course, this is a pretty imprecise game – there are always countless other factors like drinking habits, promotions and sponsorships that impact on sales, so don’t take what follows as absolute gospel.
Part II coming soon…