The "Surfer" ad is often dubbed as the greatest TV ad of all time and I would probably agree. I worked at Diageo shortly after this ad was made and everyone was always talking about it and saying that this was the standard that all other ads had to aspire to.
It was a horrid time for the new Guinness brand team as they were always measured against this and it was virtually impossible to match it, no matter how much money they spent ...and they spent alot! They even got Anthony Minghella to direct it, fresh from his Oscar win as best director for The English Patient. They came up with the "Mustang" adand I bet that you will not even remember it. The fact that it took me 10 minutes to find it on Google speaks volumes for how successful it was.
To me, this was the first time I really started to question the power of TV advertising. Was it really a key part of a brand's performance or was it just an ego drive for marketeers and their selected ad agencies. Without TV advertising it might have been difficult to get through a pretty hefty annual budget!
Things have changed now for TV advertising. Firstly, it is very hard to get the same reach for a TV ad because back then, most people still only had 4 channels and only two of them had ads: ITV and Channel 4, so it was easy to reach the masses. Secondly, the TV ad used to rule the roost and all other promotions for a brand would run off the back of that. Today a campaign has to be truly integrated (sorry for the horrible buzz word but for once it is true) across all channels - TV/radio/billboards, social media, in store, website et.al. to ensure that a brand is speaking to their customers in the right way and in a way that they are happy to listen and engage. The TV ad plays just one part of that and only if there is a big budget.
So TV advertising still has a role to play but not like it once did.
P.S. I sometimes think the Guinness brand team should simply re-run some of their classic ads. This is inconsistent with much of what I have said above about an "integrated" campaign but sometimes as a marketeer you just got to go with your gut instinct. I think if you got lots of people watching this ad again you would sell alot more Guinness.
what an ad ...... as much tension as any scene from a Hitchcock movie ....