Surfer: The Greatest Ad Of All Time

Just after it came out, Guinness Surfer was voted the greatest ad of all time by a poll for Channel Four and the Sunday Times.

I’m sure you all think it’s as wonderful as I do, so for your further enjoyment, I’ll try to remember a few anecdotes about its creation that will make you gaze in awe at its wondrousness to an even greater extent than you already do:

Apparently, Tom and Walt originally wanted Richard Burton’s recording of Under Milk Wood for the V/O. I heard that whoever controlled the rights to that particular recording said no. Perhaps they were a bit strapped for cash a couple of years back.

A cut was put together before the horses were added. the client thought this was so good, he rang up a senior bod at AMV and questioned the need to spend another £250,000 adding the equine element. The AMV person agreed and called Tom and Walt into his office to give them the news. Tom and Walt responded by saying that they would resign if the horses were not added. The horses were then added.

During the V/O recording, various things were tried. There was mild approval, then everyone went out of the studio and (as I have been told) Walt just made the current V/O up on the spot. Jonathan Glazer came back in, saw the final result and did a long skid on his knees across the floor of Wave sound studios. He was delighted.

Maybe you don’t think Surfer is the greatest ad of all time. If that’s the case, I’m afraid you’re wrong. The people at Guinness appeared to prefer Swimblack, which is also a work of genius. It’s just not as good as Surfer. Nor are Cog, Mountain, Gorilla or anything else that’s been made before or since.

If Surfer were made today, it would still be just as amazing. Congratulations to all involved, and thanks very much.