Surfer (advertisement)

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Guinness Surfer advert still.jpg
This shot shows the distinctive black and white stock and the metaphor of "white horses" illustrating the power of the wave.
Agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, London
Client Diageo
Language English
Running time 60 seconds
Release date(s) 17 March 1999 (television)
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Music by "Phat Planet" by Leftfield
Academy Commercials, London
Produced by Nick Morris
Yvonne Chalkley (agency producer)
Country Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Budget £6 million (campaign)
Preceded by Swimblack
Followed by Bet on Black

Surfer is a critically acclaimed integrated advertising campaign launched in 1999 by Diageo to promote Guinness-brand draught stout in the United Kingdom. The cornerstone of the campaign is a television commercial, originally 60 seconds long, which centred on a Polynesian surfer successfully taking on a gigantic wave. Shot in Hawaii over a nine-day period and directed by Jonathan Glazer, the piece went on to win more awards than any other commercial in 1999 (Clio Awards,[1] D&AD Awards, Cannes Lions), and in 2002 was voted the "Best ad of all time" in a poll conducted by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times.[2]

The plot centers on a group of surfers, waiting for the perfect wave. As it arrives, the crashing 'white horses' turn into actual horses. One by one, a surfer 'crashes out', leaving only one, who manages to conquer the wave. The others join him as they celebrate on the shore.

The advert was inspired by Walter Crane's 1893 painting "Neptune's Horses". The text also draws inspiration from Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick, including the line "Ahab says, 'I don't care who you are, here's to your dream.'" (which does not actually appear in the novel).

The music track in the advert was created by British band Leftfield and eventually this formed the basis of their track "Phat Planet" which appears on their 1999 album Rhythm and Stealth.

An extended 90-second version is available on the 2005 DVD The Work of Director Jonathan Glazer.[3]


Creator Country Accolade Year Rank
Channel 4 and The Sunday Times United Kingdom The 100 Greatest TV Adverts[4] 2000 1
ITV United Kingdom ITV'S Best Ever Ads 2005 6

Additional credits[edit]

  • Account Executive: Gavin Thompson
  • Creative Director: David Abbott
  • Copywriter: Tom Carty
  • Art Director: Walter Campbell
  • Directors of Photography: Ivan Bird, Don King (water), Lee Allison (aerial)
  • Production Designer: Ben Myhill
  • Editor: Sam Sneade, Sam Sneade Editing, London
  • Sound Design / Music Production Company: Wave Studios, London
  • Sound Designer: Johnnie Burn [1]
  • VFX: The Computer Film Company, London
  • VFX Designers: Dan Glass / Adrian de Wet / Paddy Eason / Tom Debenham
  • VFX Artists: Gavin Toomey / Alex Payman / Joe Pavlo
  • VFX 3D Supervisor: Dominic Parker