Our favourites from the IFI Guinness Adverts Project

Eighty-five pieces of Ireland’s advertising legacy now available to view on the IFI Archive Player, as decades-worth of classic Guinness ads have been added to the IFI film archive. Ads from the 50s through to the 90s are on show now in the Guinness Adverts project and the vibes are immaculate across the board. The add are free to view in Ireland and across the world at IFI Archive Player, with a short documentary screening at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin. We’ve gone through and picked out a few favourites that have left us gumming for a pint of plain.

Partly funded by Coimisiún na Meán, the IFI and Guinness have launched the Guinness Adverts Project, with eighty-five Guinness screen adverts from the 1950s through the 1990s now available to view, with a focus on the creative achievements of those making the ads, and the legacy of Guinness advertising in its original context.

This collaborative project, years in the making, has enabled the painstaking cataloguing, digitisation, restoration, and preservation of a magnificent 548-piece collection of 16mm and 35mm Guinness advertising reels from 1955 to 1995. Digitisation and restoration were undertaken by the world-renowned, London based R3Store Film Restoration Studio, with the close guidance and expertise of the IFI Irish Film Archive team. All 548 reels are now entrusted to the Irish Film Archive, the national repository where the stories of our nation, her people and place, told through moving images, are kept safe and secure for generations to come.

Recognised as an intrinsic part of Ireland’s cultural heritage, regarding the preservation of the nation’s broadcasting and advertising legacy, the Guinness Adverts Project has been part funded by the BAI (Coimisiún na Meán) Archiving Scheme. The body of work is now the largest, publicly accessible brand advertising collection in Ireland and the U.K.

We’ve gone through the impressive selection and picked out a few favourites that have left us gumming for a pint of plain.

Sea Lion

Guinness’ long history of iconic images of course goes all the way back to the wonder and whimsy of their alcoholic, kleptomaniac animals, abusing and bemusing the common working man. In this 1950s effort, the classic sight of a sea lion making off with its keeper’s hard-earned pint comes to life, and my goodness is it good. If you’ve ever had a seagull swoop down to steal your lunch, you can understand the importance of keeping your Guinness well guarded. This may seem like innocent, imaginative fun here, but if an animal could it would steal your pint in a heartbeat.


Big bags of cans have always existed. This is our heritage.

History of the Cinema

One of several ads desgined specifically for the cinema by J. Walter Thompson, this may or not be a reflection of what it looks like inside the Film In Dublin editor’s mind all the time. The black stuff and the black screen combine as glasses of Guinness find their way into classic movies tropes – like The Last Action Hero, but with pints. A more meta entry, in which lads in an ad for Guinness in the cinema tell people to leave the cinema and go to the pub instead, would make Charlie Kaufman proud.

Home Sweet Jail

A cell block tango where he had it coming, and “it” is a load of cans. One of several ads directed by Alan Parker (later of Ayo Edebiri’s The Commitments), it’s a nice middle ground between the award-seeking innovative ads Guinness became known for, and the dubious medical advice of years before. A simple but effective dad joke, as delivered by a young Pete Postlethwaite. Or as young as Pete Postlethwaite ever was.


The Wall. Brazil. That MacIntosh 1984 advert. Throughout the history of cinema many have tried to capture the drudgery of dystopia, the bleak anti-individualism of our capitalist hellscape lies, that stamp out our free will and send us on an assembly line of lies. But few have captured, as well as this does, the nightmare scenario of not having a lovely pint when you would like a lovely pint, and the heroism, the actualisation, the profoundity and the freedom, of then getting a lovely pint. Utterly 80s in its styling and soundtrack, in 1 minute this all-out effort most certainly does take us on a journey.

There’s plenty more to see, with talking toucans, early work by Ridleyt Scott, a young Bill Nighy and many, many glasses of Guinness.

Guinness and the Irish Film Institute are also calling creatives, filmmakers, content creators and budding advertisers the length and breadth of Ireland to enter the inaugural Guinness Archives Award. They are looking for talent to reinterpret and reimagine their 1970’s creative brief ‘An expression of Irishness’, through the lens of 2024, with a focus on Guinness 0.0. 

One award will be granted to individual creatives or creative groups for projects submitted during the application window in 2024 that align best with the reinterpretation of that brief through any content medium including video, social media, out of home, display and or other innovative formats.

The application window for the Guinness Archives Award is now open, and closes on April 5th 2024 at 5pm. The Guinness Storehouse has also launched a short documentary delving into the digitized ads which will be unveiled as part of the cinema room experience on the third floor. For more information, see: www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/discover

About Luke Dunne

Luke is a writer, film addict and Dublin native who loves how much there is for film fans in his home county. A former writer for FilmFixx and the Freakin' Awesome Network, he founded Film In Dublin to pursue his dual dreams of writing about film and never sleeping ever again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *