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 .

All the Rutger Hauer Guinness ads from Carl Mesner Lyons on Vimeo.


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?


The story behind Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

Of all the TV ads I’ve been involved in, I’m probably most proud of the launch campaign for the Johnny Vaughan breakfast show. James Cridland was kind enough to rate it:

…the very best radio personality ad. Conveying the benefit of listening to local radio not national, conveying the personality of the breakfast host, and with a clear message of the radio station itself.

Chris Tarrant was leaving the station after 17 years and had been unassailable in the ratings for a long time. Breakfast shows have the biggest audience of the day, and listening habits at that time are very habitual. People don’t want change while they stumble through their morning routines, so changing the biggest show on the highest profile commercial radio station felt like undertaking a product heart transplant.

Johnny had been selected because he had star quality, London credentials and was a proven morning entertainer (thanks to the Big Breakfast). However, just sticking a well-known name in wasn’t enough. We ran a workshop to nail what was to be true (about Johnny and Capital), motivating (to listeners and advertisers) and distinct (in the marketplace).

This resulted in a thought that Johnny was a loveable rogue and that the show would be London’s most entertaining breakfast show.

The incumbent agency, DLKW, were given the brief, and Malcolm Green delivered the idea. It was markedly different to the usual run-of-the-mill radio ad scripts, so to sell it to the board, two reference videos were used.

Firstly, this scene from Oliver showed the joyousness and broad appeal of a song-and-dance London street scene:

Secondly, could Johnny pull it off? He’s a talented chap, but not a trained dancer. This music video for Fatboy Slim showed Christopher Walken going through a few basic steps and looking drop dead cool. Michael Rooney choreographed Johnny brilliantly and I can still hear him urging “Sing, Johnny, SING!” during the filming.

The final ad took two and a half days to shoot. We’d wanted four but that was waaay too expensive, so it ended up being 6am – midnight filming over a long weekend. It was filmed in January and was freezing. Johnny’s wearing long johns in the Piccadilly Circus scene.

This out-take was entirely spontaneous – hence the genuine laughter from the crew squeezed into the corner of the studio. We ran a bleeped version of this ending in cinema and it went down a storm.


Shine a light

I imagine there will be much cooing over this new Honda ad.

Reminds me a bit of this marvellous piece of lo-fi fun from a few years ago:


Asking for it

Spotted on 37 Signals



Bullet time

I was doodling around this morning looking at slo-mo camera geekery when I stumbled upon this extraordinary bit of film, shot at 5,000+ frames per second:

Having seen this on a tech site, I didn’t know I was watching an ad. So when the boy appeared I instinctively had a “What?!? No……” reaction.

Had I seen it in a regular ad break, I think it would have been less surprising/impactful. Does marketing work better or worse when people aren’t expecting it?

And is that a good thing?