Heineken shows Pepsi how it's really done | Pure360

Heineken shows Pepsi how it’s really done

In our recent blog “What agencies can teach clients about the Pepsi saga” we talked about the major flaws in the controversial Pepsi advert.

For those who missed the advert which was pulled by its creators, it featured model Kendall Jenner appearing to calm a protest by handing a police officer a can of their soda. The scenes from the ad are reminiscent of a Black Lives Matter protest but instead feature a privileged, white, famous young model selling Pepsi.

We weren’t alone in our critique – social media was awash with cutting comments and negative responses to the campaign that seemingly made light of social and political unrest for shameless commercial gain.

But it’s easy to sit on the sideline criticising – and even easier when brands make genuinely misguided campaigns for us to pull apart! Now, instead it’s time to praise marketing genius – an agency that left us feeling inspired by delivering the kind of campaign that gives you a lump in your throat and leaves you genuinely gunning for the brand.

In this follow-up to the Pepsi blog we’re going to focus on Heineken and their “Open your world” campaign – an ad based on the simple premise of sitting down with someone to discuss your differences over a beer.

What’s striking is that “Open your world” shares the same objectives and even covers very similar topics to the Pepsi ad – they’re bringing people together to address the social divide and raise awareness of their product in the process. It’s just done in a more intelligent, thought-provoking and respectful way that doesn’t leave you thinking that they’re exploiting the situation.

Created by the London-based marketing agency Publicis, the video brings together three pairs of people divided by their identity and beliefs. Not initially realising why they have been teamed up, each duo follows instructions to build a bar and share a beer, before the truth about them is revealed on video in front of their partner. After the nail biting twist, the pair are then given the option to walk away or sit down and discuss their differences.

Unlike Pepsi they didn’t shove a bottle in their hands and claim to solve everything – instead they put the people, not the product, at the centre of the ad. They marketed their belief that sharing a conversation can bring people together – it just so happens their product helped facilitate the meeting.

In fact it’s only at the last moment you see the product subtly dropped in just before the ad finishes. And it’s not done in a showy way – they make a bottle of beer seem a natural, unobtrusive addition to the conversation. And the fact the duo are building a bar makes it clear who and what brand they’re advertising without it getting in the way of the more meaningful message in the ad.

The agency weren’t afraid to use drama to entertain or ramp-up anticipation either using snippets of interviews from each of the participants with some airing pretty controversial views. Unlike the Pepsi ad there was no catchy soundtrack to the video but the footage didn’t need a backing track to be engaging – we were hooked on the possibilities of what could happen next. Admittedly Heineken are aiming their product at different target audience from Pepsi – arguably an older age group – but the agency tailored a campaign so engaging that their message still leaves a lasting impression on you regardless of what demographic you fall into.

By presenting such different opinions within the footage they represent as many of their target audience’s opinions as possible, guaranteeing they make the campaign both relatable and attention-grabbing.

And as we suggested about Pepsi’s ad in our last blog – Heineken did this for the greater good, not just to increase their sales. The campaign supported non-profit organisation The Human Library which challenges prejudice by finding common-ground between people from all walks of life – from street sleepers to refugees, transgender people and those with life-changing illnesses.

Like all good values-led campaigns it wasn’t just a one-off ad that talked about the virtues of connecting with difference. Heineken are also holding “Mix it up” sessions (Creativity Online, 2017) designed to encourage their staff to spend time with people in the company they have not met before, making the beliefs they’re promoting part of the company’s own values.

They’re even launching a Facebook chatbot, designed to connect “unexpectedly like-minded people” to each other, based on a short series of questions about the user’s passions, spreading their campaign far and wide using social media (Campaign Live, 2017).

Cindy Tervoort, Head of Marketing at Heineken, commented: “Joining forces with The Human Library is a way for us to inspire more people to focus on the things that unite us rather than divide us. We don’t all support the same football team, listen to the same music or share the same taste in clothes. We know we’re never going to agree on everything but there will also be common ground. Whether it’s 1950, 2017 or 2027, being open lets us get more out of life. It makes the world a more interesting place. And it makes every story worth listening to.”

And we’d have to agree. So stand-up Heineken it’s time to take a bow – you nailed it.


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Becky Hesilrige
Becky Hesilrige
Becky is the Content Marketing Manager at Pure360. She studied Sociology and conducted her dissertation on online communication and relationships. Follow Becky on Twitter @beckyhesilrige
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