In May 1994, a then-little known Irish actor, Joe McKinney, danced on to our screens as the face of the latest TV campaign, Anticipation, by drinks brand Guinness.
Backed by an impossibly catchy mambo by Cuban bandleader Pérez Prado, Guaglione, which itself would go on to top the charts in Ireland (and hit #2 in the UK Top 40), the commercial formed part of the brand’s Guinness Time promotional campaign.
It would go on to become one of the most-loved Irish commercials of all time.
Directed by Richie Smyth, who would go on to direct features such as The Siege Of Jadotville (earning him an IFTA for Best Director), and commissioned by advertising agency Arks, the job of editing the staccato-like short went to freelance video editor Hugh Chaloner, previously hired by U2 to edit the Until The End Of The World video (from Achtung Baby), as well as provide some of the televisual backdrops for the Zoo TV tour.
“I had been putting together a lot of content, to be shown on multiple screens during the gigs,” Chaloner recalls. “They [U2] were hungry for content, and they needed to be fed.”
Thus when the brief came in from the agency, director Smyth turned to an individual he could trust with more offbeat content.
“I had done a lot of music videos prior to that, so I was comfortable with cutting essentially what was essentially a dance piece,” says Chaloner.
“The brief was to ‘have a bit of fun, and we will see what happens’. It ended up being a perfect storm: a great performance, a great director, and a great piece of music.”
The ad was shot at Ardmore Studios in Wicklow, with McKinney tasked to throw himself around the room; not to Guaglione, as in the final cut, but to a different track altogether.
“For the actual performance, they used Stereo MC’s Connected,” says Chaloner. “That’s the piece of music that Joe is dancing to in the video. I would imagine that the agency had a pretty clear of idea of what piece of music they wanted to use in the final version, but they didn’t tell me at the time. When filming was done, I had to synchronise it up.”
Once released, the level of attention the ad received surprised all involved, not least Chaloner himself. “The ad was only ever meant to be a filler, relatively speaking” he says. “There was a pretty small budget – it was made on a shoestring, basically.”
Timing, in this case, was everything. The ad was released just weeks after Riverdance made its first appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest, and just prior to the 1994 World Cup, when Ray Houghton put the ball in the Italian net. Ireland was on a high.
“The ad was made in April, released in May, and then it just kicks off from there,” says Chaloner. “It was a great summer, there were people on the streets, a great atmosphere. I think Riverdance had given people that feeling of ‘we’re a great little country, look what we can do’.. and then the World Cup happened. All of that helped.”
“It was probably the biggest ad I ever worked on, although I didn’t think it at the time. The ad won two awards for best editing later that year, an ICAD and a Kinsale Sharks award. So I can legitimately claim to be an award-winning editor.”
Hugh Chaloner is currently working on the new series of RTE’s The Young Offenders, as well as on projects for FBD, the Department of Justice and Glanbia. He’s married to Shona O’Neill, who at the time of the filming of Anticipation was the communications manager at Guinness, although there’s “there’s no correlation with her working in Guinness and me getting the gig,” he explains. He can be reached at www.intercuts.com.