Rutger Hauer – The Man with the Guinness

The Man with the Guinness was the campaign name for the now legendary series of ads for the black stuff that ran from 1987 to 1994. I joined the Guinness brand team at the tail end of that period just as the final ad, Chain, was being put together.

One task I had as Assistant Brand Manager was to put together a compilation of all TMWTG ads as a memento for senior managers and for trade contacts. It’s a great reel as you can see here .

Before TMWTG, Guinness was perceived as an old man’s drink. The brand needed rejuvenating and to become relevant to the nation’s lager drinkers. A whole load of expensive research had been commissioned (I think from the Henley Centre) that identified Individualism as an emerging social trend. This was Thatcher’s 80s and people wanted to be different and parade their boom-era confidence. Guinness was perfect for this – it looked different and made you stand out.

Rutger Hauer was chosen because he looked like a pint of Guinness: black clothing and shocking white hair. He’d appeared in cool, cult films such as Blade Runner and the Hitcher and was an inspired choice.

Some insider memories of the campaign:

  • The barbershop ad was predominantly aired with Rutger saying nothing. The ‘lost teddy bear’ edit was only shown late at night to freak out people just back from the pub. We had loads of calls from people claiming to have had a telepathic experience.
  • The Dark Glasses commercial was shot in LA (those were the days). It’s the light, darling!
  • The then Senior Brand Manager made a cameo appearance as a butler in one of the ads.
  • The ads set in a tibetan monastery, and inside the stomach of a whale were made as a pair and cost a mammoth £1m. Though the joins seem pretty clunky now, they were pioneering in their use of CGI.
  • In 1994, Rutger’s contract had run out, but a follow-up campaign had yet to be agreed. Guinness needed an ad, but had none to run. The solution was to edit Rutger’s face out of the portable TV in Chain and replace it with a pint.
  • We Have all the Time in the World by Louis Armstrong was released as a single and made number 2 or 3 in the charts (a big deal at the time). Originally from the soundtrack to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it was chosen (thankfully) ahead of Nigel Kennedy’s rendition of the Four Seasons.
  • The alternate, thrashy guitar version of Chain ran as a top-and-tail on late-night TV – 30 seconds forward at the start of the break, and 30 seconds reverse at the end. This was an attempt to surprise and appeal to yoof drinkers.
  • The guitar edit also featured in a live Guinness experience we toured around student campuses. Some guy with one of those  3D motion/flight simulators that look like transit vans on hydraulic legs had  approached us and shown how you could feel you were in the ad. People loved it, though the man himself had to be stopped from telling everyone the distinctly off-message statement that Guinness was ‘a meal in itself’.
  • A script was put together for Chain II, but never made.
  • “It’s not easy being a dolphin” caused a great stir, dividing drinkers into either cooing advocates or those who thought advertising was becoming over-indulgent.
  • The campaign came to an end after seven years and 27 executions because the ads were no longer recruiting new drinkers. Everyone admired the ads, but they were no longer acquiring anyone new. People had either already joined the club, or decided it wasn’t for them. The next ad, was the much less cerebral, and equally loved, Anticipation.

Do you feel the ads have stood the test of time?