Heineken's Pints and Conversations

May 1, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

Just a couple of weeks ago, Pepsi released an ad campaign that made it seem like a can of pop was an integral part to a demonstration surrounding equality.

The entire world watched. After, it was left reeling.

It was a huge blow to the topic of brands engaging in political, big picture discussions. Brands acting on their values and communicating high level ideas isn’t new. It’s just more prevalent considering the socio-political environment we’ve all been bearing witness to lately, both in Canada and abroad.

Well, as Fast Company so eloquently wrote, Heineken just released the antidote to that Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad.

So, go ahead. Take a big gulp.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

Here’s why:

1. The concept is really well executed.

It’s almost like Big Brother meets Brand Belief over a pint.

Right from the beginning, viewers are drawn in by the enticement of being told they’re about to watch a social experiment.

There’s just enough titles, such as the thought-provoking question “is there more that unites than divides us?” to set the scene and then leave viewers to figure out the rest of the bits on their own.

Then, it’s all up to the participants of Heineken’s experiment to walk audience members through the rest.

The great thing about this is that viewers have to watch to the end to understand what’s going on. Furthermore, it challenges them to think and to have an experience with the content in front of them. When there’s no narrator or actor telling people what to see, then each person can uniquely interact with the video and make their own connections.

All together, this makes the experience of tuning in much stronger and more personally applicable to a bunch of different audiences.

2. Heineken gets real about how to talk about heavy issues.

The brand dropped the scripts. It dropped the celebrities.

Other than the view titles, there’s seemingly no guidelines. Participants are told that it’s a social experiment and that they’re going to work and chat with someone they’ve never met or know any information about.

Right away, this drops viewers’ expectations of something that’s fake or contrived. While obviously there’s a flow of how things were supposed to happen in the ad, there’s no other kind of interference.

Using “normal people” so to speak also makes the content more relatable. These people aren’t celebrities – they could be me or you.

Since they aren’t trained to act or speak in a certain way, the dialogue is raw. There’s no filtering or glamorizing of it – it’s just two people, who hold polarizing views, getting to know one another.

While celebrities can hold clout by having large followings, at the end of the day, people know that the stars are getting paid to speak on behalf of an issue in most cases. Unfortunately, this just lowers the authenticity level of the message behind the content.

Instead, Heineken did the opposite and the unexpected in order to ensure a genuine conversation transpired. Consequently, viewers will be more inclined to view and to engage.


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, The Tite Report would like to forcefully reiterate the importance of brand’s dropping the product details for once, and pushing out the brand belief first.

Okay, yes – Heineken did throw some bottles in there. But it was such a small, understated moment that the seriousness of the conversations remained intact.

There was no fan fare, slow-mo or zoom in. It was shot naturally and then it was over in a flash.

In order to come across as authentic and truly dedicated to its values, brands seriously have to make sure that those beliefs are higher than profit. There’s no shallower of a way to degrade a conversation than by reducing it to a profit margin. Brands have endless years of pitch-slapping to thank for that.

Instead, Heineken asked a question: “is there more that unites than divides us?”

Then, it went on the most straightforward path to get there. It got people together who held different views and made them put that difference aside. Each time, that was easier than the fight.

And at that point, Heineken had its hypothesis answered.

Content doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated in order to be interesting. It just has to be meaningful.

Brands putting their products down for 4.5 minutes is one way to do that.

To top everything off, this ad was created in a matter of weeks. Congratulations to Heineken and Publicis London – thanks for taking a leading role in demonstrating how brands can have the important conversations, appropriately.

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?

Honorary mention #1: If you had to post 10 concerts you’ve been to but make one of them a lie, which artists would you name? This viral post has been circulating like crazy through Facebook. What makes it so great? How easy it was for people to make it their own and engage with others over shared, or not shared, experiences.

Honorary mention #2: Ikea vs. Balenciaga. When the latter tried to remake the $0.99 FRAKTA bag into a nearly $2,000 designer purse, Ikea responded in the best way possible. It kept things no frills but 100% witty. 

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