The Heineken Ad VS. The Pepsi Ad

Posted May 01, 2017
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by Brett Savaglio

In the wake of the famous Pepsi protest ad, Heineken has released its own politically minded advertisement, and it shows how a company can get this kind of ad right. 

In the past year many advertisements have entered into the arena of politics and social issues. Some of them are received positively, and some are received poorly -- it is a tough line to walk as an advertiser. Recently, we have seen two examples of these kinds of ads which demonstrate how tricky this can be, one of which has been received well, and the other is the Pepsi ad. The key difference between these ads is arc or story.

Everyone by now knows about the Pepsi ad. There's a political march heading towards a police line, people from all walks of life (actors) join the protest, Kendell Jenner joins the protest, and the whole thing ends when Jenner brings peace to the streets by handing one of the police officers a Pepsi. 

This story is not only unbelievable (that a Pepsi could bring about peace), but also it is not told in a compelling way. The whole thing is essentially beauty shots of a protest, and then, almost out of nowhere, enters Jenner and the Pepsi and like that the story is over.

Now let's look at the Heineken ad:

The concept here is that three sets of two people who have opposing political views are forced to confront each other civilly and see each other as human beings. It is a much more powerful concept, using real people in a real situation, and the story is told much clearer. This is done by separating the view into clear sections, creating hierarchies of knowledge between the people in the video and the viewers, and having a great payoff at the end. 

The video starts by introducing the sets of people, and the issue that they are on opposing sides of, but the people in the ad don't know that's why they've been teamed up, at least not yet.  Then, after they enter a room they have to assemble a table and some chairs to sit on, then they start talking, not about issues yet, but just about themselves, and then they finally get into the issues, after already spending quality time with the person they are supposed to disagree with.  The whole time through this process, we as the viewers are on the edge of our seats wanting to know how they will react when they find out about the other person's beliefs. The whole time we want to know will it get ugly, will they yell and so on. You hang on because this is the payoff you want to see, the moment when they realize who they are talking to. On top of that, to see them getting along in a friendly manner from the start makes the viewer fascinated by this turn of events and the lack of knowledge about their partner. It's a brilliant way to tell this story, and makes it much more interesting than just lining two people up and telling them they disagree and have at it. Certainly a lot more interesting than a fantasy about celebrities and soda saving the world!

Watch the ad here:

It's just a much clearer ad. It is not a vague message about how beer can save the world, but rather has a concrete message about communication and perhaps beer can be a part of that. 


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