Great ideas don’t just fall from the sky

When agencies are facing shrinking budgets and economic uncertainty, it's even more important to get rid of the hospital pass briefs so many end up having to work with, Richard Woof argues. Instead, let's look to Guinness' ingenuity, on display at the Six Nations earlier this year, as an example of how to truly be creative.

So, we’ve had some rain. A lot of it. And we’re not the only ones. The UK’s seen some too, only over there, it’s not called rain anymore.

It’s called Guinness Clear.

In another bit of bold marketing, the folks at Diageo did it again.

A couple of months ago, before COVID-19, the Six Nations kicked off with a bad start for England (did someone just laugh?!) against France, but they bounced back against Scotland, albeit in horrendous weather.

But it wasn’t the haphazard rugby (or England’s amazing ability to keep kicking it out on the full again and again) that caught my attention at the time – it was the crowd’s ponchos. Each one (and there were a lot) had “It’s raining Guinness Clear” printed on them. All part of Diageo’s 2020 Six Nations campaign

And it got me thinking. I wondered how the original presentation of this idea to Guinness’s senior team went.

Could it have been something like this:

Agency creative: So, we’d like Guinness to focus Six Nation fans’ attention on a new product: Guinness Clear!

Guinness marketer: Guinness… Clear?

Agency creative: Yes.

Guinness marketer: And the tagline is…

Agency creative: “Available from all good taps.” Yes.

Guinness marketer: Bar taps? It’s draught only?

Agency creative: Er… no… Taps. Kitchens, bathrooms, water fountains. You know… taps!

Guinness marketer: So… you want to use our marketing budget to promote… water? And not show any actual Guinness product?

Agency creative: That’s right.

Guinness marketer: Ummm…

Of course, it probably didn’t go like this at all.

That’s because it’s coming from a strategic position; it’s solving a problem with a creative, and different, perspective.

That problem is something the drinks industry hasn’t historically been particularly keen to acknowledge: The negative effects of alcohol on the human body.

Yet, even powered by that strategic truth, and strengthened by the cultural truth that responsible drinking means interspersing your alcoholic drinks with water, no mention of a real product? At all?

Now, consider the budgets involved here. Media, sponsorship, and talent, let alone creative, production and content.

How many marketing teams do you know that would be happy to go with a campaign that not only fails to mention the company’s product, but actually tells the audience to use an alternative?

Great campaigns often display similar characteristics: An underlying cultural truth, a way of looking at it – a lateral thought – that drives the creative idea, and a suite of assets and tactics that orchestrate the expression of the idea across multiple touch points that are, crucially, relevant to the user (and not solely based on demographic profiling or ‘how we’ve always done it’) in both context and channel.

But often under-appreciated in the post-launch success glow is the effort made in the inception and development of the campaign. It’s a trait that I wish more marketers would show.


Too often, the more comfortable (and easier) option leads to vanilla communications that are better at boring people than marketing a brand or product in a truly original and engaging way. Unfortunately, it’s another cultural truth in this industry that risk is never worth taking, particularly when economic times are challenging.

And yet, it’s at these times, when the future’s most uncertain, that the bravery needed to stand out in your category – and your company – is most needed. Otherwise, you could end up looking like England’s poor kickers, doing the same thing over and over in difficult conditions and expecting a different result.

So, let’s get rid of the hospital pass briefs that so many Aussie agencies end up working with, and let the talented creative and strategic minds we have start kicking some serious goals.

Richard Woof is head of strategy at Next Thursday


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