Surfing with Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a look back at one of the great Guinness commercials of all time: 1999’s “Surfer” from AMV BBDO in London. In crafting the spot, art director Walter Campbell and copywriter Tom Carty were inspired by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and, especially, by Walter Crane’s 1893 painting Neptune’s Horses, which shows ghostly white horses galloping atop a crashing surf. In a phone interview years ago, Campbell told me, “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could bring that [painting] to life.’ ” The spot was directed by Jonathan Glazer, the hot-shot music-video director who would go on to direct Sexy Beast the following year. The ad, which British viewers voted the best TV commercial of all time in a 2000 poll, is renowned for its violent Hawaiian surf footage. As Campbell put it, “Instead of making the kind of surf film where people say, ‘Hey, I’d like to do that,’ we wanted to say, ‘Maybe you should think twice about coming out here.’ ” Campbell and Carty’s other triumph for Guinness was 1998’s “Swimblack” spot. See that one here.

—Posted by Tim Nudd