AMV BBDO London and acclaimed director Henry-Alex Rubin have developed new advertising for Guinness that profiles the Compton Cowboys, young men who’ve managed to break the cycle of violence and fear in hardscrabble South Central Los Angeles.
They’ve added purpose and meaning to their lives by caring for horses. In turn, the guys serve as beacons of hope for others as they ride, sometimes 10 abreast, through the neighborhood.
The story is extremely well told. Rubin, who directed last year’s lauded “Evan” spot for Sandy Hook Promise, deftly handles the material, delivering a perfect combination of poetry, grit and heart. His visual sense adds a lot to the story.
Shots of the shirtless, tatted guys sitting tall in the saddle amid a graffiti-tagged concrete wasteland are especially strong. A brief scene of Keenan Abercrombie riding proudly past an abandoned car-husk underscores the message that these dudes are determined to move forward despite the entropy around them.
That’s not to say the mood was deadly serious at the steamy four-day shoot in July.
“The cowboys certainly took to the Guinness,” recalls AMV BBDO creative director Steve Jones. “There was absolutely no difference in them when the director called ‘cut.’ They talked, laughed and drank just the same. Our director wisely just kept the cameras rolling, and what you see in the films [at various points] is just the guys with their friends, girlfriends and wives, thinking they’re between takes.”
It’s stirring work, part of Guinness’ celebrated “Made of More” series, though some commentators have pointed out that the brewer isn’t exactly blazing new trails here.
The campaign, which dropped this week, bears more than a passing resemblance to “Urban Riders,” an ad that CHI developed last year for iD Mobile. That work featured a similar group of men from Philadelphia and boasted a comparable vibe and storyline. (In fact, the Guinness work also evokes Almap BBDO’s powerful Pedigree film from a few years back.)
A rep for CHI brought the similarities to our attention, but declined further comment.
Are they wearing long faces at AMV BBDO over the similarities? Did they knowingly trot out a lookalike? We asked the agency to address the situation, but a rep said she’d have to check with the client before responding. We’ll update this item if and when we hear back.