Published in Features, Issue 3 (May/June 2024), Volume 32

By Saskia Vermeulen

Above: A pint of Guinness having its head examined. (IFI/Guinness Archive)

A successful advert doesn’t solely sell a product. It can, decades later, transport us back in time and reveal cultural and historical nuances about the past. The Guinness Archive has partnered with the IFI Irish Film Archive to release the largest publicly available collection of brand advertising in Ireland and the UK. It’s a fascinating dive into Irish culture, ever-changing gender roles and how camera techniques have developed, from stop-motion animation to capturing high-production footage of a surfer mid-waves.

The partnership, spanning the last few years, has involved the cataloguing, digitising and preserving of 548 advertisements (both 16mm and 35mm) made in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Kasandra O’Connell, Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive, explains how the complex task required ‘the examination of multiple copies of hundreds of commercials in order to identify the best copies and document any differences between versions. The selected copies were then digitised and treated to improve their sound and picture for viewing purposes. Large digital files were catalogued and put through specialist workflow, thus ensuring they could be preserved in the IFI Archive’s digital repository.’ A curated selection is now available, free to view worldwide, on the IFI Archive Player.

Above: ‘Tá siad ag teacht’. (IFI/Guinness Archive)

Created to advertise Guinness to Irish and UK television audiences, the collection of adverts features a wealth of talent both behind and in front of the camera, with directors including Alan Parker, Nicolas Roeg, Tony and Ridley Scott, music from artists Elkie Brooks, Clannad and the Chieftains, and featuring a host of well-known faces such as Pete Postlethwaite, Bill Nighy, Robert Lindsay and Jon Pertwee. Key influential historical and cultural themes, including representations of ‘Irishness’ and gender, are explored to provide a unique insight over the 40 years of time.


1960s / 56 secs

A beautifully composed advert that encourages Guinness drinkers to write their initials into the head of a pint with a biro. The letters remaining visible while the pint is enjoyed is proof of the quality.


1970s / 1 min. 2 secs

The Irish-speaking customers of an isolated pub on a remote western island wait patiently for a delivery of Guinness, until finally the keg-filled currach is spotted—‘Tá siad ag teacht’. This well-known advert won a Clio award in New York for Arks Advertising in 1978, a Silver Cannes Lion, and further awards from the Advertising Awards Festival, the Institute of Creative Advertising and Design and Rank Screen Awards. The director, John Devis, directed several other adverts in the collection.

For a deeper dive into the collection visit

Saskia Vermeulen is Digital Platforms Manager at the Irish Film Institute.

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