Heineken Aims Its Ads at Young Digital Devotees [NYT]

/// Heineken Aims Its Ads at Young Digital Devotees [NYT]

May 30, 2011  |  Blog

A worldwide initiative by the Dutch brewer Heineken to embrace nontraditional methods of delivering pitches to consumers has been deemed successful enough to continue.

In December, Heineken began running the initial commercial in a new campaign on Web sites first rather than on television. The humorous spot, which carried the theme “Open your world,” made its way onto TV in about 30 countries three months later, but not before being viewed frequently online.

For instance, as of Wednesday, the spot, called “The Entrance,” had been watched more than 3.6 million times on the Heineken channel on YouTube. It is also available on the Heineken fan page on Facebook.

Heineken subsequently brought out 11 video clips, featuring characters from “The Entrance,” that ran online only; they have been watched on YouTube more than a million times.

On Thursday, Heineken will bring out another commercial in the “Open your world” campaign, and like its predecessor it will make its debut on the brand’s homes on YouTube and Facebook before being shown on TV. Plans call for the new commercial, called “The Date,” to start on television around September.

There will be an additional online effort related to the new commercial, which will let a Web site visitor customize video clips with a serenade asking a love interest out on a date.

“The Date,” like “The Entrance” and its related videos, are being created by the Amsterdam office of Wieden & Kennedy, which is one of two worldwide agencies for Heineken, along with Publicis Worldwide in Paris, part of the Publicis Groupe. The New York office of Wieden & Kennedy was recently named to create campaigns for the Heineken brand in the United States.

“The Date” has a different cast from “The Entrance,” and the plots diverge. The new spot is about a young man on a wild date and the previous one is about a young man’s show-stopping arrival at a wild party.

They are, however, similar in that they both take tongue-in-cheek tacks, have over-the-top production values and feature offbeat musical numbers. All those elements are intended to encourage online viewing, which requires consumers to make a conscious decision to watch a spot.

The idea is “to think digital at the inception, not as an afterthought,” said Alexis Nasard, chief commercial officer at Heineken International in Amsterdam, who spoke during a recent interview at the Heineken USA office in Midtown Manhattan.

As a result, “the digital element must be part of the brief and the creative presentation,” he added.

That change in how advertisers and agencies approach media choices is being driven of course by the increasing propensity of consumers to consume media digitally as well as through — or in place of — traditional means.

That is particularly true for a beer brand like Heineken. Its intended target audience is men ages 18 or 21 (depending on a country’s legal minimum drinking age) to 34.

Making that even more appropriate for Heineken is a goal to reach a subset of younger men who are “worldly, cosmopolitan,” Mr. Nasard said, who “over-index in Internet usage.”

Mark Bernath of the Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam office, who joined Mr. Nasard for the interview, described that would-be Heineken customer as “a man of the world.”

“It’s about knowing your way around,” said Mr. Bernath, who is the executive creative director of the office along with Eric Quennoy, “open to things, resourceful — anything but being a provincial amateur.”

Heineken International is closely watching the results of the “Open your world” campaign in the important United States market because American sales of Heineken have slumped as many drinkers shun expensive imported beers.

Still, other drinkers are embracing domestically brewed craft beers, which are often priced the same as imports but have an image as being distinctive.

“Our brand in the United States has lost some of its cachet,” Mr. Nasard said.

Although “it’s always easy to be smart in hindsight,” he added, “maybe we could have done a better job.”

The Wieden & Kennedy New York office will be, by one count, the seventh agency to handle the Heineken brand in the United States in nine years. The trade publication Adweek ran an article last month, “Is Heineken the Worst Client Ever?” Mr. Nasard acknowledged that “changing agencies frequently is never a good thing, as a principle.”

“One thing we could have done better is consistency,” he added, to be “consistent but surprising.”

Running the same ads in the American market as in other countries is meant as a step toward more consistency in Heineken brand messages.

“The Date” takes place in what seems to be a nightclub in Hong Kong; it was actually filmed in the venerable Rivoli Ballroom in London. The music in the spot is an Indian song from the 1960s, “Jaan Pehechaan Ho,” performed by the songwriter Mohammed Rafi. The song is as delightfully daffy as “The Golden Age,” the song in “The Entrance,” which is sung by a Danish band, the Asteroids Galaxy Tour.

In a test of how worldly the viewers of “The Date” are, its creators, who include Mr. Bernath and Mr. Quennoy, and the director, Fredrik Bond, have filled the commercial with nods and winks to all manner of popular-culture touchstones.

For instance, a scene in a kitchen in “The Date” recalls the long tracking shot in the 1990 movie “Goodfellas” during which the characters played by Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco walk through a kitchen on the way into the Copacabana nightclub.

By Stuart Elliott



Leave a Reply