The Stout with Clout: Guinness Wins St Patrick’s Day


Holding out for a ZERO


When Covid-19 hit the advertising world, it hit Guinness first. The cancellation of the St Patrick’s Day parade in 2020 led to a rapid response from Guinness and AMV BBDO promising that “We’ll March Again”. That sentimental but sombre ad set the tone of Guinness’ St Paddy’s Day ad in 2021 as well, then last year the brand finally felt able to welcome people back to the pub with an optimistic – but still low-key – ad.

The 2022 St Patrick’s scored 4.2-Stars on Test Your Ad, making it one of Guinness’ best ads of recent years. And the brand has thrived – last month brought the news that Guinness had become the UK’s number 1 selling beer in pubs. Even so, we’ve been itching to see a truly feel good Guinness St Patrick’s Day ad to celebrate the brand’s biggest day.

And this year we’ve got it. Just not in the way anyone expected.

Guinness and AMV BBDO’s latest ad may strike you as bizarre. A round of singing Guinness pints, giving full creamy voice to Bonnie Tyler’s legendary banger “Holding Out For A Hero”. This gloriously silly idea has let Guinness match its top UK score on the Test Your Ad database, getting 4.6-Stars. And its short-term Spike rating is through the roof, with Brand Fluency also exceptional. This is a great ad. But what on earth is going on with it?

To understand why “Holding Out For A ZERO” works so well, you have to understand no less than four advertising, alcohol and Guinness trends. There’s a lot going on in one goofy ad.

First, the trend to low and no-alcohol beer. This is an ad showcasing Guinness Zero, the brand’s no-alcohol offering. “Nolo” beers used to have a rough time in ad testing, because consumers weren’t ready to shed the foul-tasting associations of an earlier generation of alcohol-free beers. But now low-alcohol beers are more fashionable, and responsible drinking has thankfully been normalised. Which means Guinness can make an alcohol-free ad that doesn’t emphasise the “nolo” message and just has fun.

Second, the rise of TikTok. Like so many recent hit ads, this one draws some inspiration from a TikTok hashtag. “SingingGuinness” didn’t set the app on fire but it did draw the brand’s attention with its quirky visuals of faces in Guinness’ foam. More broadly, the visual style of TikTok has been a huge inspiration to creatives – proving that simple, silly, highly visual ideas can speak to huge audiences.

Third, we’ve seen a trend in several categories this year towards the unashamed use of old songs. From T-Mobile borrowing from Grease to a US sandwich brand’s remake of “Eye Of The Tiger”, big cheesy tunes are very much in. It’s a nostalgia thing, but it’s not just that – as last year’s Kate Bush revival showed, streaming shows and TikTok can push old tunes back into popular consciousness more easily than ever.

And fourth, Guinness themselves have shown a trend in the last few years to make ads which play heavily on their greatest distinctive asset – the instantly recognisable black and white Guinness pint. Marketers have woken up fully to the necessity and power of using your distinctive assets well, and it’s no surprise to see a pint-focused Guinness ad now.

Like the four leaves of a clover, these four trends come together to make “Holding Out For A ZERO” an excellent, memorable and most importantly fun ad. Congratulations to Guinness and AMV BBDO, and a hearty “Sláinte” to all our Ad Of The Week readers this St Patrick’s Day!

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