I’ve just uploaded these two collections of The Guardian‘s TV ads that cover the 80s and 90s. The first set pre-dated my time as Brand Manager, but I was responsible for the second reel.
The ‘points of view’ (skinhead) ad from the mid 1980s remains the most famous ad from any newspaper and often appears in those lists of top 100 ads. However, viewed as a collection, I think they show the evolution of the brand, becoming notably more sophisticated, entertaining and inventive.
It was a critical task to modernise the paper, shake off the beardy, worthy image and fight the price-cutting Times and the newly-launched Independent. Good marketing, editorial vision, investigative journalism and investment in the product itself combined to strengthen a much-loved media brand and give it a strong platform to compete in the digital era.
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