The Ingenious Guinness "Guide To" Advertising Campaign

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


If you follow any brands on social media, you've probably noticed that too many of them like to talk about themselves way too much. Their pages are often an endless stream of photos, memes, and promos shoving their product or service in front of your face in a one-way conversation. They're a lot like the obnoxious party guest you once met who talked nonstop about their life yet never asked you a single question about yours.

So when I saw the series of Guinness ads devised by the Ogilvy ad agency in the 1950s, I was a bit taken aback at how ahead of their time they were. At first glance, these ads -- which were conceived by David Ogilvy himself while he commuted home one evening in 1950 -- might seem a little confusing as they don't directly promote Guinness. And yet, that's the point and proves how ingenious they are.

Instead of directly highlighting the qualities of Guinness, Ogilvy decided to bring value to the customer by putting the spotlight on a variety of foods that Guinness compliments including oysters, cheese, and game meats. The result was an early example of content marketing and native advertising that delivered trivia and relevant information (oysters are packed with vitamins and minerals and their number-one enemy is starfish, for example.) It isn't until the bottom of the ad that we learn a bit about Guinness, which makes all oysters taste their best.

Even more ahead of its time, this particular ad was available via the Guinness company as a reprint, "suitable for framing." Since the ads didn't even look like advertising, but food guides, some restaurants took to tearing them from magazines and presenting them to patrons.

The Guinness Guide To Oysters ran in 1951; other "Guide To" ads were published in throughout the 1950s and '60s. All demonstrate that you don't have to directly talk about your product to make people interested in it. 

Ogilvy knew that advertising didn't have to just promote a product; it can be useful, sharable, and ultimately, memorable as the Guinness Guide To series proved. Here are the other ads in the series. Warning: they may give you a craving for certain types of food and Guinness.

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