You probably don’t remember Erik Weiner’s performance in The Sopranos. His single line was, “Leon, take your break at two.” Erik is now stretching out his small moment of fame, for comic effect, and thereby making himself much more famous as a result. Clever stuff, Erik.
Way back in 1994, I was Assistant Brand Manager on Draught Guinness. I was dutifully learning the blue-chip marketing ropes, but really far more captivated by this fledgling thing we then called, wonderfully, the Information Superhighway.
It’s to the eternal credit of my then manager, Jason Nicholas, that he signed off a £25k budget to investigate further. Over the following months, I worked with great people at Ogilvy & Mather (especially Saul Klein) to create Guinness’ first website. We didn’t have the brand domain, so it was hosted at the clunky URL of http://www.itl.net/guinness (sadly not captured on archive.org’s wayback machine). We stretched the limits of Mosaic/Netscape to offer not only images (woo) of a pint, but also an animated gif (double woo!!) of, er, a spinning globe. We even put that address on a TV ad.
But by far the most successful and illuminating piece of work was the Guinness Screensaver. As a format, screensavers went on to be be hackneyed quite quickly, but at the time it was wildly original. It’s not too much of a brag for it to lay claim to being one of the first pieces of viral marketing.
Guinness had just launched a new ad, Anticipation featuring a guy dancing round a pint to infectious mambo music. The idea was to bring to life his inner excitement while waiting for the pint to settle and be ready to drink. It was fresh and wildly popular.
O&M created the screensaver and we put it on the website. But back then, very few people had internet access and this file was a mammoth 1.3 megabytes(!) In the end, we branded up hundreds of 3.5″ floppy discs and put the file on there (it just fitted, thankfully). We seeded a few to friends and colleagues and suddenly the requests came pouring in. By letter! I had a box under my desk and spent most of my day stuffing envelopes. People would take the discs and pass them around friends and colleagues. People loved having beer imagery in their workplaces. There was a point in 94/95 when it seemed every office had screens saved to Joe McKinney dancing round a pint.
 thanks Leo for the screencap! Can anyone help preserve this small piece of web/marketing history? It’d be great to screencapture it to a movie file and put it up on YouTube for posterity. The .exe file ran under Windows 3.1 and if you’d like a copy, please email me hello (at] contrarymarketing dot com or via Twitter @cslyons
I think people will pay for digital content – if it’s easy enough.
The problem with handing over £0.99 to read a newspaper online is not the price – it’s just too much hassle. You have to fill in your details, confirm your email address, enter your credit cards etc. Urgh. Simple micropayments have never been cracked on the web.
Apple have shown the way forward. No-one was buying digital music till they made it easy. No-one bought mobile apps till it became a breeze to do so. The sweet integration of device (iPhone), content (apps, music, tv) and store (iTunes) removes all the barriers. They’ve made it almost fun to spend.
When paying for good content on the web is this easy, people will do it.
btw, would anyone have bought iFart on the web using a credit card?