A couple of weeks after an attempt at a socially-conscious Pepsi
spot featuring Kendall Jenner failed miserably, drawing the ire of countless on social media and the disdain of media critics, Heineken knocked one out of the park, showing exactly what’s possible when you want to pair your product with a strong social message. One of the most common complaints about The Way Things Are These Days is how political and partisan things have become. People are in what’s being called “echo chambers” or “bubbles,” and they often don’t interact much with people from the “other side.” Heineken decided to play on that reality by offering people of different social and political persuasion to sit down and have a beer. But first, they had to complete a project together. As the commercial begins, the viewer is treated to snippets from experiment participants, who share fairly polarized political and social views. People are paired up based on directly opposing views and then introduced to each other without any preamble. They are asked to complete a project, forced to work together to accomplish a task. Turns out, they’re building a bar. Nice touch, Heineken. Once the bar is completed, the people watch the political monologues. There’s a bit of uncomfortable surprise … then the other shoe drops. The folks can either go, nothing else needing to be said, or they can have a beer together and continue their conversation. In the ad, all three of the pairs choose to drink up and hash it out. Some even exchange contacts so they can continue the conversation later. The ad, dubbed “Worlds Apart” was a huge success, more than 4.7 million views on YouTube as of this writing and the vast majority of reactions are very positive. People’s favorable reaction stemmed a lot from how real it felt. The characters and their opinions felt genuine, and it tended to remind a lot of folks about conversations they had recently. While there’s no way one conversation will adequately bridge the divide in many western nations between the political right and left, having a beer seems like a pretty good start to a lot of folks. And why not, people have been discussing their differences over beer for as long as there’s been beer and people with differences … so, pretty much for all of human history. Kudos to Heineken for doing something unique, original, and clever that actually connected well with audiences across the board. It might not sell a huge amount of beer, but it sure moved the dial on conversation in the right direction. Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.