Drink a Heineken, save the world

by Grania Spingies

You’d think that after the Pepsi fiasco a few weeks ago, any advertising agency – or any product producer about to launch a new campaign – would consider the mockery and derision aimed at the soft drink purveyor and demand that any similar campaign in the works suggesting that their own product could  in some way engineer social transformation be aborted immediately.

However, Heineken decided not to take the road of caution and went ahead with its own version of giving the world a coke. On the one hand, there is simply no good reason for any beverage vendor to try to flog their wares by trying to insinuate that they can make a meaningful contribution to transforming society in a positive way. On the other, Heineken’s latest attempt is by no means the worst in the recent spate of painfully self-conscious “socially aware” advertisements peddling mass produced beverages. Pepsi has claimed that title and will forever be the champion of the most inept and crass attempt to cash in on feel-good commercialism. Here’s a Canadian example of beer creating racial harmony. Is there anything that fermented hop-flavored sugar water cannot do?

What the Heineken ad did was select a small group of people with opposing political and social views and put them through ice-breaking and team-building exercises; with the big “reveal” coming on completion of the task, leaving the participants in the awkward situation of realising that the person they had been getting along with up to that point was in fact someone that they would normally not only have nothing to do with, but probably actively despise. At that point the cheesiness ensues when all the teams opted to sit down and have a beer and a chat with their former team-mate, possibly overcoming and confronting the issues that would normally polorise them.

But what saves the advert is not that it claims that a Heineken can bridge social divides. In fact the advert neatly avoids that trap. The product is certainly placed prominently in the final scenes of the advertisement, however it is clear that the catalyst is not the beer but the connections that have been built during the team-building exercises.

It is actually a fairly savvy acknowledgement that we all tend to label ourselves and present a small thumbnail version to the world, especially in these days of social media; and this leads to snap judgements and very often complete ignorance of the other side. Sometimes otherwise decent people can hold ignorant views. Sometimes, those people can start to change their minds.

Watch for yourself.

I can’t say I am a much of a fan of this new trend of socially aware ware-hawking. If I want a drink I don’t need to think that I am drinking a “woke” drink. I just want the flavor – or the alcohol.

Maybe beer companies should stick to being funny, it probably works better.



h/t: Pyers


  1. Posted April 30, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I rather prefer water to a Heineken beer.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 2, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      That would be used water, in preference to the Heineken.

  2. Merilee
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The ad in the last link IS very funny. I watch so few ads on TV I can’t really comment on trends but I do remember hating that awful Anita Bryant ad decades ago saying that orange juice was not just for breakfast any more ( as if it ever was ??)
    When Trump decided overnight that NATO wasn’t obsolete any more he reminded me, in his absolute stooopidity, of that old oj ad.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted April 30, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Trump proved something else just last night in his “rally” speech to his follows. He has no idea how to run this country and is simply a one trick pony of lies.

  3. jwthomas
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    We Californians are still waiting for the weed ads to show up.

  4. Simon Hayward
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Heineken “refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach” – or at least it used to. Haven’t seen a tv ad from them for years, which probably reflects my viewing patterns more than their advertising.

    • Whitt Staircase
      Posted May 1, 2017 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      For those who haven’t seen it, this was the tagline for an ad featuring Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in his Vulcan get-up. His pointed ears are drooping in the first panel, as he reads the ad copy, (about refreshing the parts other beers can’t reach). In the second panel, as he enjoys a quaff, his ears have become, um, erect, and there is a thought balloon which says (“Illogical.”)

  5. Randy schenck
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Madison Avenue, just another term for commercials has always been the money tree for television, radio and now the internet. You can never totally escape it, unless you live in a cave. It is baffling how ads continue to work on the human but it does. I would drink beer that taste good to me and hope that the commercials have no affect. After all, if you blind fold the drinkers they would have no clue what they are drinking, right?

  6. jeffery
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Since corporations are now “people”, it follow that it’s only fair that they be able to “virtue-signal”, too! 🙂

  7. Dan Paslawski
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I despise ads attempting to define patriotism or identity. The Molson ads are particularly excruciating. As a Canadian,they attempt to label us as hockey loving, Molson drinking, yahoos, and imply that “good immigrants” are those that adopt the same mindset.

    I like my Canadian “identity”, but cannot stand anyone defining it for me. In many ways they are like the American boosterism that most Canadians don’t like.

    • Merilee
      Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      You mean you don’t want to be labelled a “hoser”, Dan? Didn’t they try to ban so-called “lifestyle ads” 20 or 30 years ago? You weren’t supposed to make drinking look cool…

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Dan, I agree 100%. I hate being depicted as a beer-swilling, hockey-loving, Tim Horton’s- addicted boor. And when they add immigrants to the mix, having them enjoying a “Timmy’s” as if that’s what Canada is all about for them. Sheesh…

        Although, I am a wee bit disappointed that the Canadiens are out of the play-offs.

  8. Brian Salkas
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Guys, the most productive thing to do right now is to sit down and have a beer…

  9. Kurt Lewis Helf
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Except the ad promotes “both-siderism” which is pernicious, inaccurate, and dangerous. Here’s an excellent column regarding the ad:

    View at Medium.com

    “This is the danger of the feel-good “let’s just talk to each other” approach. It’s just a more cuddly version of that horrible bothsidesism that equates being called a racist with actual racism as reasons for hurt and anger. Both sides are not the same. The transphobe who agrees to have a beer with the trans woman is sacrificing nothing. She, on the other hand, is giving up a certain amount of dignity by breaking bread with someone who thinks she shouldn’t have the right to exist. She’s risking her mental and physical safety, volunteering for the hard emotional labor of arguing for her right to be a person. And with ads like this, that labor is being demanded of her with no consideration of how much it may cost. Worse, it’s heavily implied that if she were to walk away, it would make her just as intolerant as the bigot who views her with disgust.”

    • Posted April 30, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Interesting POV. Not that a beer commercial will do the job, but if people on opposing sides don’t talk, and get to know each other, how will they ever finds areas in which they agree (are the same) and may/can establish some find a beginning to form a relationship. Is it any more dangerous for the “trans woman” to talk with the bigot in a protected environment than it is for her to encounter him/her on the street?

      Talking with one doesn’t make you one, but it’s a good start in becoming more knowledgeable and, one hopes, understanding.

      • Kurt Lewis Helf
        Posted April 30, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, that is the Achilles’ heel of this argument. Without discussion there is no understanding. However, that does not negate the incoherence of “both-siderism”.
        Apologies to PCC for posting the video; I failed to scrutinize the link closely.

  10. Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Not that I drink beer or watch beer commercials
    in my present iteration, but I used to think the beer ads with the Clydesdales were great.
    Especially the one for 9/11. That event still affects us all. Give a listen to Mark Knopfler’s song “If This Is Goodbye” written after he learned of people in the towers or planes trying to call their loved ones before they died.

  11. Posted April 30, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Yes, i’m pretty sure the gist of the ad was that we should take the time to sit down and get to know each other better as people and maybe then we’d understand the other person’s point of view….or at least see them as fellow caring humans.
    Nice sentiment, but if the other guy thinks my daughter should have her rapist’s baby, sitting down for a brewski probably wouldn’t do it.

    I didn’t see anything offensive about the Pepsi ad and i don’t see anything offensive about this one. Naive’ perhaps…unrealistic and frivolous…but not offensive.

  12. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Well here’s a beer ad that I thought was a satirical spoof on those ‘socially aware’ ads:


    ‘The world is running out of sand’ indeed!

    But apparently (Googling says) it’s true. To reduce the amount of glass going to landfills, DB Breweries developed (or licensed, or repackaged) a self-contained bottle-crushing machine that allows glass to be recycled as a sand substitute.
    (I suspect it works on the competition’s bottles just as well).


  13. Posted May 1, 2017 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    They’re actors.

  14. Posted May 1, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I saw an ad around here in person (I think it was on a bus stop shelter or the like) also advertising Heineken in a similar way – the ad claimed it is sold in 192 countries or something.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 2, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      So there are about 14 countries where it is not sold. Lucky places.

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