Heineken's heady blitz for digital audience

Heineken's heady blitz for digital audience

A worldwide initiative by the Dutch brewer Heineken to embrace non-traditional methods of delivering pitchers to consumers has been deemed successful enough to continue.

In December, Heineken began running the initial commercial in a campaign on Web sites first rather than on television. The humorous spot, which carried the theme ‘‘Open your world,’’ made its wayonto televisions in about 30 countries three months later, but not before having been viewed frequently online.

For instance, a spot called ‘‘The Entrance’’ had been watched 3.6 million times on the Heineken page 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 about a million times.

Recently, Heineken was to bring out another commercial in the ‘‘Open your world’’ campaign. Like its predecessor, it will make its debut on the brand’s homes on YouTube and Facebook before being shown on television. Plans call for the new commercial, called ‘‘The Date,’’ to start on television in September.  There will be an additional online effort related to the new commercial, which will let website visitors customise video clips with a serenade asking a love interest out on a date.

‘‘The Date,’’ like ‘‘The Entrance’’ and its related videos, is 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 cast for ‘‘The Date’’ is different from that for ‘‘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 man’s showstopping arrival at a wild party.  They are, however, similar in that they both take tongue-in-cheek approaches, 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 conscious decisions to watch a spot.

Creative presentation

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 was interviewed at the Heineken USA office in New York.

As a result, ‘‘the digital element must be part of the brief and the creative presentation,’’ he said.  That change in the way advertisers and agencies approach media choices is being driven, of course, by the increasing propensity of consumers to view 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 18 or 21 (depending on a country’s legal drinking age) to 34 years old.

Making that even more appropriate for Heineken is a goal to reach a subset of younger men who are ‘‘worldly, cosmopolitan,’’ Nasard said, who ‘‘over-index in Internet usage.’’
Mark Bernath of the Wieden & Kennedy office in Amsterdam, who joined  Nasard for the interview, described that would-be Heineken customer as ‘‘a man of the world.’’

‘‘It’s about knowing your way around,’’ said Bernath, who is the executive creative director of the office along with Eric Quennoy. It is about being ‘‘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 US market because American sales of Heineken have slumped as many drinkers have shunned expensive imported beers.

Still other drinkers are embracing domestically brewed craft beers, which are often priced the same as imports but have distinctive images. ‘‘Our brand in the United States has lost some of its cachet,’’ Nasard said.  
Although ‘‘it’s always easy to be smart in hindsight,’’ he added, ‘‘maybe we could have done a better job.’’ TheWieden & Kennedy office in New York will be, by one count, the seventh agency to handle the Heineken brand in the United States in nine years.

Consistent but surprising

The trade publication Adweek ran an article last month, ‘‘Is Heineken the Worst Client Ever?’’ Nasard acknowledged that ‘‘changing agencies frequently is never a good thing, as a principle.’’ ‘‘One thing we could have done better  is consistency,’’ he said.

‘‘Consistent but surprising.’’ Running the same ads in the US market as in other countries is meant to be 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 Rivoli Ballroom in London.

The music in the spot  is an Indian song, ‘‘Jaan Pehechaan Ho,’’ performed by a band named the Serenades. 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  Bernath and  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.

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