Those of you who weren’t out on the town this weekend might have noticed the latest Guinness campaign.

The ad takeover on Saturday gave us three spots over the course of The Jonathan Ross Show explaining a “social experiment”.

Over three spots we were introduced to the idea “Round Up Your Mates” to encourage men to take part in real social interactions instead of keeping in touch via social media.

Firstly, the idea was presented through a staged conversation in a pub between comedian Danny Wallace and Oxford University’s Professor Robin Dunbar about the merits of meeting friends in real life and how doing something together helps nurture bonds between men.

In the second spot, a chat show hosted by Jonathan Ross with Danny Wallace and Professor Dunbar as guests, with scripted banter discussed the benefits of humour and laughter between friends.

Lastly, an “experiment” and the results were shown where five men were asked their opinions on playing football game on a console and then in real life. All this was presented with the hashtag #RoundUpYourMates to mobilise a movement.

A quick scan of the hashtag will give an indication of how the ads were received (not very well) and, for the media spend attached, managed to generate only 600 extra followers for their Twitter account.

So, should this be seen as a failure?

It’s true to say that the execution of the creative jarred with both the gloss of The Jonathan Ross Show and with the brand.

This is Guinness, who gave us the brilliant Surfer ad, introduced Louis Armstrong to a new generation and, more recently, the heart-warming wheelchair ad (albeit it having the same storyline as a Saatchi & Saatchi New Delhi advert for Chillz Cone ice creams).

Confusingly, from a brand renowned for their emotive and often cinematic approach to advertising, the production values on the three spots on Saturday felt more in line with ITVs’ late night partnership with JML known as The Store.

By trying to appear to be a genuine experiment the mixture of stilted conversations and canned laughter felt fake, especially when in contrast to the genuine laughter, spontaneity and warmth that came from watching The Jonathan Ross Show.

But, more importantly, although there is some insight in real human interactions being more fulfilling than those through social media, it isn’t particularly surprising. We know this already and having this “learning” presented without further thought, or using football and banter as key aspects for male bonding was taken by scores of tweets, to be at best, reductive or at worst, patronising.

In contrast, take the approach used by Charlene deGuzman & Miles Crawford to cover the same topic in “I Forgot My Phone”.

Although a skit, “I Forgot My Phone” feels more human, through its observations, exaggerations, humour and warmth.

There is always an inherent risk in a brand trying to attach itself or generate a movement, as it can be seen as being phony but many brands have done this before – through demonstration rather than through content. For example, Lucozade’s 5-A-Side Power League makes the intention of Guinness’ campaign a reality, without needing to advertise it, which, as an energy drink, feels authentic and relevant.

Ironically, the negative reaction around the campaign, and the attempt to try something different in itself have generated a lot of discussion about Guinness, and their rich advertising legacy. So, maybe all the commotion will ultimately have a positive effect on gauging what customers want from Guinness and their marketing.


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