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What Really Inspired ‘Surfer’, One Of The Greatest Guinness Ads Ever Made
By Yoon Sann Wong, 16 May 2017
There’s much to learn when you look back at classic ads that made history through their simplicity, great execution, and unique perspectives.
Previously you saw Nike’s impactful print ad that said so much sans a single word of copy—highlighted when Adweek sat down with John Mescall, McCann Worldgroup’s Global ECD, at One Show judging for its ‘Best Ads Ever’ series.
In its latest addition to the project, Adweek speaks to Keith Cartwright, Executive Creative Director at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, who names ‘Surfer’ for Guinness as one of his favorite spots of all time.
The 1999 commercial was created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and directed by Jonathan Glazer. It likens the experience of waiting for a slow-poured pint of Guinness to anticipating the perfect wave, and ends off with the tagline, “Good things come to those who wait.” Similar to the aforementioned Nike ad made by Wieden + Kennedy in 1993, ‘Surfer’ was all about simplicity. Cartwright explained to Adweek:
“It was just so well crafted. Smart. Really simple. Not a ton of copy or dialogue. It didn’t need it. It sticks with me as a high bar in craft.”
Inspiration for ‘Surfer’ came not only from the old ‘Guinness is Good for You’ ads—fuelled largely by “a sort of strangeness or mythology” according to AMV BBDO art director Walter Campbell—but also Walter Crane’s 1890s painting ‘Neptune’s Horses’, pictured below. It features an army of colossal, ghostly horses galloping atop waves.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could bring that [painting] to life,” Campbell said.
The vision wouldn’t have been complete without what Cambell describes as the “Moby Dick-esque with a bit of Dylan Thomas” copywriting by Tomy Carty.
“Instead of making the kind of surf film where people say, ‘Hey, I’d like to do that’ we wanted to say, ‘Maybe you should think twice about coming out here.’”
‘Surfer’ clinched a Gold Lion in Cannes in 1999, two awards at the British Design and Art Direction Awards in 2000, and in 2002, was voted the best ad by the British public in the ‘100 Greatest TV Adverts’ of all time—a poll jointly conducted by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times.
Watch ‘Surfer’ below , followed by Adweek’s interview with Cartwright, who cites Burger King’s ‘Subservient Chicken’ by CP+B and Barbarian Group, and Nike’s ‘LeRoy Smith’ for the Jordan Brand—a campaign he’d worked on whilst at Wieden + Kennedy—as his other favorite spots of all time.
‘Neptune’s Horses’ by Walter Crane (1890), image via Wikimedia Commons
[via Adweek, images via video screenshot]
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