Brands today are competing with the entire internet content available.
This is frequently seen as something new, but back in the day brands had the aspiration, and challenge, to make ads that were as entertaining as TV programmes and films. The competition was with professionally produced, audiovisual, photographic and written content.

Directed by, Sony BRAVIA's "Paint" director, Jonathan Glazer 20 years ago, in 1999, and drawing parallels between the wait for a Guinness and the idea of a surfer waiting for the perfect wave, Guiness Surfer Ad is among the greatest advertisements of all time.

Guiness Surfer Ad is an epic example of how a product truth can be dramatised in a really surprising way.

Walter Crane - Neptune's Horses
Walter Crane - Neptune's Horses

How to pull this off? How did they sell an idea like this one to the client?
In a longer interview with the people behind the campaign, a word that resonates is "trust" – between the agency and client.

"You're never 100% confident you're ever going to pull anything off. You only get there by the skin of your teeth each time. That was no different at all. The horses only really started to look like they made sense to those pictures very late on in the post-production process, but that's always the way. And there were conversations going on behind the scenes along the lines of, "Why don't we just dump the horses? The ad's fine on its own." Jonathan Glazer (source)

Guinees had invited four agencies to pitch for the account. The strapline ‘Good things come to those who wait‘ from the legendary writer David Abbott convinced them quickly. Again a powerful truth that was able to drive sales.

Prior to the the Guiness Surfer Ad another ad led to an uplift in Guinness’s sales was "Swim Black".

That first ad gave both brand and agency the confidence to do the £1m Surfer ad. As always, it's about building a relationship and trust.

Art Director, Walter Campbell, was on point finding the right music for the Guiness Surfer Ad with "Phat Planet" by Leftfield and a voiceover with a, non-Irish, neutral accent.

Here's the voiceover:

‘He waits… That’s what he does… And I’ll tell you what; tick followed tock followed tick followed tock followed tick.’
‘Ahab says “I don’t care who you are, here’s to your dream”.’
‘The old sailors return to the bar.’
‘“Here’s to you, Ahab” and the fat drummer hit the beat with all his heart’
‘"Here’s to waiting…"’


Additional videos directed by Jonathan Glazer:

Music Videos:
"Karmacoma" by Massive Attack (1995)
"The Universal" by Blur (1995)
"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" by Radiohead (1996)
"Virtual Insanity" by Jamiroquai (1996)
"Cosmic Girl" (version 2) by Jamiroquai (1997)
"Into My Arms" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1997)
"Karma Police" by Radiohead (1997)
"Rabbit in Your Headlights" by UNKLE ft. Thom Yorke (1998)
"A Song for the Lovers" by Richard Ashcroft (2000)
"Live with Me" by Massive Attack (2006)
"Treat Me Like Your Mother" by The Dead Weather (2009)

Film
"Sexy Beast" (2000)
"Birth" (2004)
"Under the Skin" (2013)

Other Commercials
Sony BRAVIA: "Paint"
Levis "Odyssey
Stella Artois "Ice Skating Priests"