Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that lends itself to cliché ad images of ruddy-faced Dubliners drinking in pubs or a testosterone-infused sports bar with buff guys guzzling beer while gorgeous women with pearly white teeth, red lipstick and long perfectly coiffed hair laugh flirtatiously at their cleverness. What is totally unexpected in Guinness’s “Made of More” brand campaign is seeing nattily dressed men in the Republic of Congo going out on the town. Yet London ad agency AMV BBDO linked the Guinness ad series to a real group of dapper Congolese gentlemen, known in Central Africa as the Sapeurs – La SAPE or Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo. By day, the Sapeurs are ordinary workingmen – farmers, taxi drivers, laborers, and the like. But after work, they dress up in stylish and often colorful attire to express their own individuality and creativity. “Even if I don’t have money in my pocket, I only need to wear a suit and tie to feel really at ease,” said one. Despite living in an impoverished war-torn region, the Sapeurs abide by a code of honor that respects peace, self-dignity and politeness. They are role models in their community. They live by the beliefs expressed in 19th century poet William Henley’s Invictus — ”I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
When Grey Group opened a new Singapore division of its ad agency earlier this year, it wanted to communicate that it had assembled a team from a dozen different countries to handle business in 106 national markets. It was truly multinational in every sense of the word. The challenge was how to suggest its global outlook visually without resorting to tedious clichés. Luis Fabra, Grey Singapore’s senior graphic designer, chose the most recognizable symbol of any country – its national flag. From there, he deconstructed each flag into geometric shapes – stripes, dots, triangles, half circles, etc. – and rearranged the color scheme on each flag to form a single letter of the alphabet. Grey Singapore’s multinational typeface actually has 106 letters in the alphabet, with some letters repeated to give each country equal representation. Abstract yet country-specific, the letters in combination suggest a strong communication program that is sensitive to all cultures.
Sports and beer were meant for each other. If you watch beer commercials, that’s the impression you get. The beer- sports fan theme is an advertising cliché. Unfortunately, most of the ads are so interchangeably similar that one brand name on a beer bottle could be photoshopped out and replaced with another and no one would know the difference. Most of these commercials feature attractive, young people with bottles of beer in their hands, yucking it up in a crowded sports bar. When you’ve seen one beer-in-bar commercial, you’ve seen them all. Which brings us to the Carlsberg Fan Academy spot, created by Fold 7 agency in London. Like most videos that go viral, this one has a story line that holds your attention and is fun to watch. It’s a comedy sketch, with actors not models, and the brand message for Carlsberg comes through strong, but doesn’t stomp over the entertainment value. The viewers’ delight in getting amusement from an ad, makes them feel good about the brand and want to retweet it to share with friends.
If all the holiday ads featuring Christmas trees were planted side by side, they would fill an entire forest. So it is refreshing to see some companies give their own creative spin to this overworked visual cliche. The message is concise, amusing and not cloyingly sentimental – and the ads are free of reindeer, rosy-cheeked Santa, and overly cute children in bathrobes and fuzzy slippers running to their presents under the Christmas. A nice change of pace. Merry Christmas!