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The Sapeurs

Behind the Lens

Behind the Lens

AMV BBDO’s Nadja Lossgott and Nicholas Hulley, the creative brains behind Guinness’ latest award-winning campaign provide the inside scoop on the Sapeurs: The Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo.

How did you feel when you were chosen to work on the latest Guinness ad?

It’s every creative’s dream. Surfer, swim black, noitulovE: they are all iconic ads but what’s amazing about Guinness® as a brand is that it doesn’t rely on a set formula. There’s no magic recipe to follow. It’s the brief you want to get but when you do, you have a lot to live up to – and that’s scary.

What was your starting point?

We wanted to find a fresh way of articulating what it means to be ‘MADE OF MORE’ and embodying the idea of the extraordinary. To do that, we knew we needed a powerful human story.

“And if they can live with such dignity and joy in a country emerging from the ravages of war, we thought they would be inspirational role models for the rest of the world.”

Why the Sapeurs?

The Sapeurs are extraordinary men but, at the same time, they are taxi drivers, carpenters and warehouse workers, just like everyone else. That’s what we wanted to get across.

What makes them stand out?

They transcend the everyday grind of their lives by wearing incredible suits. And if they can live with such dignity and joy in a country emerging from the ravages of war, we thought they would be inspirational role models for the rest of the world.

Still from the Guinness Sapeurs advertisement

But the real message is about far more than fashion?

The real message is not the suits, it’s about the substance of the men inside them. We wanted to capture the inner qualities of these soulful guys who reach beyond their circumstances. For us, they are living proof of the universal truth: you can always choose who you are.

The Sapeurs Documentary

The Sapeurs Documentary

How did you make sure the ad was authentic?

The Sapeurs are the stars of the show so we were adamant that we had to use the real guys from Brazzaville, rather than actors. Central to who they are and what they do is a deep-rooted sense of pride. We wanted to do that justice so it was important that they told their own story.

Tell us about the challenges you faced during filming.

Our first hope was obviously to shoot in Brazzaville but it was too big a logistical issue to get a whole production crew there. Instead we flew the Sapeurs to Durban, which, after an extensive search, proved to be the best place to replicate Brazzaville’s quality of light, vegetation and urban landscape. Most of the Sapeurs had never been out of the country or on a film set before. Luckily for us, they took to it like old pros.

A still from the Guinness Sapeurs Documentary

Why opt for a soundtrack by a British indie rock band?

We’re not going to lie. We listened to a lot of tracks. When we started we had a strong idea in our heads. It needed to be a track that connected with audiences worldwide, plus be powerful and uplifting enough to express the spirit of the Sapeurs. Still, it took us a while to find the song that captured their emotional journey from Congolese everymen through to the rousing ending. With the band The Heavy we found everything we wanted. The title, ‘What Makes a Good Man’ is a great fit.

Why do you think the campaign struck such a strong chord with the audience?

The Sapeurs are just normal people who add a bit of joie de vivre to everyone around them. How they do it however, is pretty unique and visually compelling. Happily, that combination seems to have resonated with people.