World’s best ads ever #2: in Guinness’s classic ‘Surfer’, patience is everything
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
After making its TV debut in 1999, ‘Surfer’ has gone on to become not only one of the most-recognizable Guinness campaigns, but potentially one of the best ads ever made.
In the bold, monochrome commercial by creative agency AMV BBDO and filmmaker Jonathan Glazer, a man bides his time, waiting to ride the perfect wave, symbolic of the wait for the three-parts pour of the perfect Guinness. As the drumbeat slowly gains momentum in the background, the surfer enters the water as a team of wild horses clashes with the rapidly moving wave. It’s a race between the surfer and the stampede.
Shot in Hawaii over a nine-day period, the film draws on inspiration from Walter Crane’s 1893 painting Neptune’s Horses, as well as Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. The soundtrack by British band Leftfield played a huge role in the build-up of the spot, with the band even using it to form the basis of their track Phat Planet, which appears on their Rhythm and Stealth album. Apparently, a Velvet Underground/Pink Floyd track had also been considered among many, many others.
Scottish actor Louis Mellis, who was a friend of Glazer’s, narrates the 60-second ad, with longboard surfer Rusty K being cast to ride the waves – which was an intentional move from Glazer as he didn’t want the ad to become too polished. It’s been noted since that Rusty was far from an expert and at times looked terrified by the ordeal.
The film, which was produced by Nick Morris and had a budget of £6m, has gone on to win many accolades and was even voted the ‘best ad of all time’ in a poll conducted by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times in 2002.