June 16th 2008 by Andrew S Gibson
In August 2004 I spent a few days in a charming, remote village called Iruya in northwest Argentina. Imagine my surprise when I recognised the town in Guiness’ latest TV ad. A quick search on google confirmed that the location was indeed Iruya, that the ad is Guiness’ most expensive to date, and that the entire campaign cost a colossal ten million pounds (approximately 20 million US dollars).
This is how Iruya looks when you approach it along the dirt road from Humahuaca.
The ‘making of’ video (see below) reveals that the makers of the ad spent a month in Iruya, 150 crew were there for two weeks and that they bought in 130 extras from 5 neigbouring villages. This is in a town with a population of only 1000 people.
The ad agency (AMV/BBDO) that made the video are from the UK. They used a Dutch company called Domino Domain to create the domino tipping sequence. Iruya’s a long way from Europe, fairly obviously, and to get to there you first need to fly to the Andean city of Salta (approx. 14 hours) , then take a bus to the town of Humahuaca (approx. 5 hours) then finally another bus to Iruya, which is 48km away on a narrow dirt track (approx. 3 hours – it’s hard going).
Then there’s the altitude. Humahuaca is 3000 metres above sea level, Iruya is a little lower at 2780 metres, and the road in between at one point reaches 4000 metres. That means that the people in Iruya are nearly three kilometres or two miles up in the air. There’s planes that don’t go that high, I’m sure, and trust me, until you acclimatise, it’s hard to breathe.
Not only did they have to get all the people involved in the project to Iruya, but all the equipment too. This included all the camera and filming equipment, 10 000 books, 7000 dominoes, 400 tyres, 50 fridges, 70 wardrobes and six cars. For this they needed 26 trucks.
So, after spending 10 million pounds and making all that effort, was it worth it? Take a look at the video and decide for yourself:
And this is the ‘making of’ video:
Now, in one way I’m kind of sad to see the ad because one of the wonderful things about visiting Iruya for me is that it’s such a remote and magical place. I hope it stays that way.
Here are some of the black and white photos that I took when I stayed in the village. Incidentally, the room that I stayed in cost me only 7 argentine pesos a night. That’s a little over one pound or two dollars.
And someone spent 10 million pounds making an ad for Guiness there? I don’t know about you but I think that’s a little crazy.
Photo Essay: Iruya, Provincia de Salta, northwest Argentina
The village’s main plaza.
Photos from the village.
I took these photos on a the edge of the village in the late evening. The dirt track leads to the next village, San Isidro, some 5 kilometres away. It’s only accessible by 4WD or by walking. In the summer, which is the wet season here, the road is impassable for vehicles and supplies are taken to the village by donkey.
I met these children while walking outside the village.
Kids playing football on a dusty field. No grass here.
The village’s cemetery.
The day I arrived in Iruya coincided with a local festival. I’m not sure exactly what the purpose of it all was but I know that the fiestas in this region date back to before European settlement. The people in these villages are descended from the indigenous peoples that lived here before the Spanish came. Their festivals typically are a combination of pre-colombian and catholic elements.
All these photos are Copyright © Andrew Gibson.