Saturday, 30 January 2016

Alice Through the Guinness Glass

Classic Guinness advertising took divergent paths. In one direction were the boldly drawn John Gilroy menagerie compositions and feats of prodigious strength with brief snappy slogans. In another was a long series of pretentious, whimsical, text heavy magazine adverts in which the over-educated copywriters at S H Benson indulged their fondness for elaborate demonstrations of literary expertise and witty wordplay. Placing the adverts in such publications as Illustrated London News, The Tatler and Country Life represented a conscious effort to reach a more affluent and socially superior consumer. The hallucinatory fantasies of Lewis Carroll were extensively parodied in sometimes interminable verses, deep in which the merits of a glass of Guinness were archly commended. The saving grace was in the accompanying illustrations, especially those of the under-rated Anthony Groves-Raines who possessed a genuine flair for elegantly deadpan rendition of fantastical subject matter. Groves-Raines had a long association with Guinness and was a regular contributor to the series of illustrated brochures that Guinness dispatched to the nation’s doctors every Christmas. One of these, (My Goodness! My Gilbert and Sullivan) was posted on this blog in 2010. Brian Sibley in The Book of Guinness Advertising (1985 and still the definitive book) has chapter and verse on this topic on page 73, (Guinness in Wonderland).

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