Monday, October 27, 2003

A bottle of Guinness, neither shaken or stirred please

As the Republic of Ireland repackages itself away from the image of men in cloth caps sitting at the bar with their pints of Guinness, and towards the image of men in baseball caps reaching for a can of Bud in the fridge as they watch Man Utd on Sky TV, sales of the black stuff are in decline. But Guinness, or rather its corporate parent Diageo, has been bailed out by booming sales in Africa. Today's Wall Street Journal analyses the situation:

...African sales have benefited from a hugely successful and multifaceted advertising campaign featuring the fictional Michael Power. Ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi...introduced him in 1999 in a series of five-minute action-thriller ads in which he overcomes obstacles through perseverance and inner strength rather than violence, in the process capturing "the heart and mind of Africans," Guinness says. He became so popular that Guinness backed a feature film, "Critical Assignment," that features the character -- and Guinness. The movie has been shown across Africa.

Guinness makes little attempt to hide the idea that Mr Power is essentially a James Bond who likes Guinness -- and doubtless the near overlap in name with a certain other Bond-type figure doesn't do any harm either. Compared to the Guinness advertising we've seen in the US -- where people say "Brilliant!" all the time and have bottle openers installed next to toilet roll in the bathroom -- we think the Africans are getting the better deal on the ads.

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