The 1980s “sophisticated” advertising revolution didn’t happen overnight. Far from it. So entrenched, for example, was the good, honest, no-nonsense tradition of earthy advertising for the Emerald Isle’s bestselling meal in a glass that, even while square-spectacled tastemakers were upping the cultural ante to flog everything from unit trusts to liquid Gumption to the newly-moneyed chuntering classes, the harp-embossed stumbling syrup was still being aimed four square at your old school jobbing masses.
Our hero was Bernard Wrigley, comedian, folk singer, bit part telly mainstay and physical missing link between Bernard Hill and Bobby Ball, as a building site foreman telling his crew of a moment of stout-based epiphany via a quasi-rap reworking of When I Was a Lad from Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, backed by a parping brass band. The content was classic ‘alcohol as fuel for the workers’ fare:
“I’ll tell you blokes, nothing tastes so good,
Real full-bodied like a man’s drink should.
From that day on, we worked at such a rate,
By six each night we’d built a housing estate!”
A series of variations on the theme followed, along with badges, tie-pins and eventually, in a sure indication the zeitgeist was being surfed, a Tiswas parody in the shape of The Bucket of Water Supporter’s Club.
This was, however, the last oompah-led hurrah for traditional Guinness advertising. Demographics were in amongst marketing men, which meant builders were out, as campaign after campaign sought to get more upwardly mobile lips clamped to pints of the black stuff. After a few misfires such as the unfathomably feeble Friends of the Guinless campaign, someone got Blade Runner out on video, noticed Rutger Hauer’s rough physical resemblance to a glass of stout, cooked up some Superdrug surrealism about dolphins while en route to Quaglino’s, and two decades of prestige twaddle were thrust at a thirsty but bewildered public.