Guinness’s latest ad campaign tells the story of the Compton Cowboys: a group of men who have rejected gang life in favour of running an urban ranch. A three-minute film released in September last year showed them riding on horseback through the streets of South Central Los Angeles – an area predominantly known for its hip-hop culture and gang violence.
The ad was created by Steve Jones and Martin Loraine and directed by Henry Alex Rubin. The social campaign was co-created by Jones & Loraine and social creatives Julia Merino and Scarlett Montanero, with a separate director, photographer and crew brought in to shoot a series of vertical videos for Facebook and Instagram.
The vertical videos act as short vignettes, allowing the campaign to explore different themes in the cowboys’ story, from their sense of brotherhood, to their determination not to be defined by their surroundings, and combines video footage with messaging in bold white type. Videos begin with the Guinness logo and end with an image of a pint of the brand’s famous stout, leaving viewers in no doubt as to the purpose of the content.
AMV BBDO also used Canvas to dive deeper into the stories of people featured in the ad. The Canvas experience combines videos, photographs and short form content, and links to a YouTube playlist containing the full ad and a series of mini documentaries.
The agency began thinking about how the story of the Compton Cowboys could play out on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms at idea stage. Creatives, social creatives and content strategists came up with a rough plan for social content before the ad concept had been approved and the agency worked closely with partner agency Carat and Facebook from pre-production through to launch.
Creative Director Martin Loraine says the aim was to create rich social content that would feel native to each platform instead of shorter cut-downs of the TV ad.
“[The Facebook and Instagram content] was baked in from the start,” he explains. “It was important to us that the work [on social media] was specially composed for the screen, rather than cropped and the reformatted.”
“It was always our intention – or our hope, anyway – that the social [content] could be as good as the TV. It had to be incredibly visual, because if we just told a great narrative, it wouldn’t work in a cut down, so the narrative had to do all the right things from a Guinness strategy point of view but also be incredibly arresting,” he adds.
The Compton Cowboys concept offered both a compelling narrative and striking visuals. An image of a young man riding a horse through a run-down Los Angeles neighbourhood is one that stands out even in crowded mobile Feeds.
The TV ad and vertical video shoots took place simultaneously. An interview day was built into the schedule, allowing TV and social crews to shoot interviews for the vertical videos and longer documentary films.
“It made for quite a demanding shoot … especially because of the places we were shooting,” explains Loraine. “We filmed the ad in some of the most deprived and dangerous places in Los Angeles and Compton itself. We had police protection there, so it wasn’t a very relaxed situation – a biker gang rolled through the street we where we were shooting at one point and we recruited them to be in one of the documentary films.”
Jamie Webber, Production Innovation Manager at AMV BBDO, says the agency then had to map out how each piece of content would feed into the wider campaign.
“The content strategy was integral to the story-telling because all of the different working parts are involved in forming this whole narrative” he explains. “We had this story that lends itself to every platform from a visual perspective, but [it was about] working out, ‘if we tell this thread of the narrative, where is the best next step for that person to go? What can we retarget them with?”
Lise Pinnell, Creative Agency Partner at Facebook, says the resulting assets show how thinking about social media from the outset – and shooting bespoke content – can result in a richer campaign. “Because [the content] was made for vertical as well as TV, it’s thinking about, ‘what are the user behaviours on Facebook and Instagram? And how will people consume this?’ and that comes through really strongly in the advertising. [The agency] have thought about the environment this will be seen in and the frame of mind the consumers will be in and for that reason, it works really well,” she says.
Brands are reminded of the value of putting their message up front in social ads – but this doesn’t mean having to create something that is all about product. AMV’s short vignettes show how this can be done while still creating intrigue and telling a broader story.
“If you look at things like Netflix, when they want to convince you to watch six seasons of Breaking Bad, the way they do that is to drop you into the action. They show you Bryan Cranston driving around naked in the desert and you think, ‘what is this? What is going on? I better watch it and find out’. That’s what [AMV BBDO] are doing here and they’ve done it in a way that doesn’t interfere with the storytelling,” says Pinnell.
The campaign is part of Guinness’s long running ‘Made of More’ initiative, which is based around inspiring true stories and aims to promote Guinness as a beer of “character and substance”. Other Made of More campaigns focused on the Sapeurs, a dapper group of gents from the Congo, and Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas, who told the story of coming out to his teammates in a Guinness ad for the Rugby World Cup.
This isn’t the first time Guinness has experimented with Canvas: AMV BBDO used the format to promote the opening of the brand’s Open Gate Brewery to the public in 2015. But it is the first time the agency has used the format to direct viewers to a TV ad and shot vertical content for mobile at the same time as filming the ad.
Guinness has a rich heritage of creating cinematic, epic TV spots. The brand’s ambition now is to create the same quality content for digital platforms – content that is bespoke, visually engaging and shot with a particular platform in mind – rather than repurposing footage that was made for TV and cinema.
“We always look to engage people in our real Made of More stories, but often telling a deeper story means longer formats,” explains Loraine. “This time we wanted to think more broadly about what telling these stories means in a modern media landscape. We now have so many more opportunities to engage the audience. Our plan was a multi-channel campaign that was people first, not brand out, with a combination of long form deeper content and short, sharable, relatable content.”
Credits: Creative Agency: AMV BBDO; Creative Directors: Steve Jones, Martin Loraine; Copywriter: Martin Loraine; Art Director: Steve Jones; Social Creatives: Julia Merino, Scarlett Montanero; Agency Planner: David Edwards, Lisa Stoney; Agency Account Man: Michael Pring, Tessa Brisbane, Sam Ayre, Luke Hickey; Agency Producer: Anita Sasdy, Frankie Burwell-Wright; Social and Digital Producer: Jamie Webber; Media Agency: Carat; Media Planner: Dina Rogozhina; Production Company: Smuggler; Director: Henry Alex Rubin; Director of Photography: Grieg Fraser; Content Director: Harrison Schaaf; Stills Photographer: Stefan Kocev; Production Company Executive Producer: Chris Barrett / Fergus Brown; Production Company Producer: Molly Pope; Editor: Kyle Valenta @ Cartel; Post-production: The Mill; Audio Post-production: 750
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