Compared to American television, Europe’s standards for sexual content are much looser, but backlash can still get advertisements pulled. Such was the case in 1995, when a Guinness beer commercial, intended for the United Kingdom, was taken off the air for its portrayal of a gay male couple.
In the ad, a young man is getting ready for work and making a mess in the process; as he does, his long-suffering partner, of whom all we see is gloved hands, cleans up after him. As he’s leaving the house, we finally see that the assumed wife is in fact a boyfriend (legally recognized civil partnerships were not available in the UK until ten years later); the worker gives him a kiss on the cheek, and then runs out the door. Shot in black and white, presumably to evoke the black of Guinness beer and the white of its foam, the ad closes on a full glass of beer.
The ad never aired on television. UK tabloids wrote about it in detail before it was supposed to run, and bars and their patrons were so shocked by the idea of gay content in a beer ad, let alone one by Guinness, that it created a scandal. To prevent further backlash, Guinness dropped the ad. For a while afterwards, they even attempted to deny its existence.
During a 1997 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, when asked why Guinness had pretended the ad never existed, producer Tony Kaye responded, “Most of them have the vision of a dead rat. I think it was charming and it was very funny and would sell a hell of a lot of beer.”
He may have been right, as according to AdRespect (formerly The Commercial Closet), when they show the ad at screenings “it regularly gets standing ovations.”
Today, Guinness also markets the brand Bass Ale, which is one of only a few types of beer in the United States that runs advertisements in LGBT media.