The year is 1864. When 22 year old Gerard Adriaan Heineken acquired a small, local brewery in the heart of Amsterdam, it is doubtful that he would have imagined his modest company growing and expanding well into the 21st century. Despite its extensive history, Heineken claims to continue to use the original recipe formulated almost 150 years ago. Presently, Heineken International boasts a portfolio of 170 beer brands, 119 breweries in 65 different countries, and is ranked the third largest brewery in the world (JAZD, 2008). The brewery Gerard Heineken acquired so many years ago is now preserved in an interactive museum experience.
Since the first television advertisements in 1968, the company has launched numerous controversial but successful ad campaigns. In fact, the founder’s grandson “Freddy” Heineken received the “Advertiser of the Century” award in the Netherlands in 1999. In 2008, the first global responsible drinking campaign began (Heineken, 2010). The company commenced its participation in charitable causes as well as continuing the humorous campaigns Heineken has become known for. Here, the latest campaign entitled “Open Your World” will be examined and critiqued.
This enticing tagline and campaign was first launched during the final months of 2010, moving away from the previous “Meet You There”. The tagline was alluring enough to stand on its own in print media. Billboards, posters, and electronic posters were featured in high impact locations such as the New Delhi airport, following its recent launch in India by United Breweries Ltd (network2media Bureau, 2011).
However, Wieden & Kennedy, the agency responsible for the new creative to align with the shift in Heineken’s positioning, had more grandiose plans.
Instead of relying on television spots to allow the animated campaign to gain popularity, a series of comedic spots were primarily launched on various websites, including Heineken’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. The first spot, entitled “The Entrance”, featured an stylish young man with a “laissez-faire” attitude strolling into a party. He interacts with many of the interesting guests at the party before accepting a ice-cold bottle of Heineken.
The concept proved it had legs after eleven other spots were created featuring each of the guests he interacts with in the original video. Since first launching “The Entrance” in Europe at the beginning of this year, it has had over 3.6 million hits. The subsequent videos have had over a million each (New York Times, 2011). As of September of this year, there are now television commercials featuring a different cast of characters and new storyline. The initial television spot was entitled “The Date”.
“We’re taking consumers on a journey with us,” were the words of Heineken International’s CCO Alexis Nasard (Brand Approved, 2011). The campaign journey began with a test of the new tagline “Open Your World” using various print media in the company’s global markets. This included almost entirely outdoor advertising. According to a survey conducted by world renowned agency BBDO, 35% of all outdoor billboard viewers actually called the number advertised on a particular billboard (Radford, 2011). This is evidence to indicate the surprising call-to-action power this type of print media can have.
As indicated earlier, placements chosen for these billboards and electronic/LED billboards included high traffic locations such as international airports, alongside highways, and at exclusive sporting events. The strengths of this form of advertising include high reach, frequency, and coverage, cost efficiency, and room to be creative to invoke a peripheral response. Weaknesses include audience selectivity, low amount of processing time, little room for creativity to invoke a cognitive response, and a non-refined media image (Radford, 2011). After this initial phase of the campaign, Weiden & Kennedy were brought in to begin the next phase of the campaign. Going viral.
Heineken and their chosen ad agency decided to take the non-conventional route towards digital advertising. Recently, there have been many provocative television commercials that have stood out so much that viewers across the continent have taken the opportunity to upload them online for the world to appreciate. YouTube has become the ideal breeding ground for these videos to become viral. Instead, the agency created the series of videos aforementioned specifically for certain websites including their own YouTube channel. There are several reasons to taking this approach but two are obvious: cost and dignity saving.
It costs practically nothing to upload a video online and if the first spot turns out to be a bust, the spot can be pulled. The consequence is saving more face than if it made it to television. Thankfully, the first spot turned out to be a hit, as well as the following videos in the series. The television commercials, although featuring different characters and storylines, continued to achieve their goals. In July, Heineken Light was introduced under the tagline “Occasionally Perfect”. The advertising efforts for the new beer were aligned perfectly with the successful “Open Your World” campaign. As predicted, the campaign was widely accepted in comparison to the previous, unrefined “See the Light” campaign (Rudenko, 2011).
Considering the main reasons for beginning the campaign online and following up with television commercials, the same logic could have been applied with the outdoor print media. Although the tagline is attention-grabbing enough, it would have been more recognizable once the videos went viral. In other words, the entire campaign could have begun with the online spots. Another stipulation about Heineken’s use of print media is that there is no evidence of any print media use aside from limited outdoor advertisements. Characters or screen shots could have been featured in billboards and magazines after the videos went viral. Magazine advertising is still considered one of the highest return on investments, with a threefold advantage over the industry competitive average (Radford, 2011).
In regards to the video spots first launching online rather than on television, although it may be easier and more cost efficient to pull the plug on an online campaign failure, the company has less control over where released videos ended up while they were available online. Copyright laws may provide somewhat of a security blanket but the World Wide Web is a big place… it is easy to get lost and never found. There is more control when specific television spots were purchased and perhaps easier to tie up loose ends.
Lesya Lysyj, CMO of Heineken USA, explains the draw to the successful “Open Your World” campaign: “Our consumers formed an immediate and deep connection with the ‘Man of the World’ figures featured in the Heineken Lager films…, We worked closely with Wieden & Kennedy New York to ensure the Heineken Light ads inspired similar feelings of confidence and progressiveness while developing the creative to resonate with our uniquely American audience.”
These words capture the essence of the entire campaign. Yes, the videos are entertaining to watch. Yes, the characters are eclectic and interesting. However, the reason that consumers are attracted to this campaign more than previous Heineken campaigns or other brand campaigns lies in the connection with the film’s main character. He embodies a persona the target audience seek to acquire or perfect without the arrogant attitude that so often leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth.
Heineken continues to expand the “Open Your World” campaign using other techniques such as sponsorship of high-profile entertainment events. These include “The Asteroids Galaxy Tour”, a Danish pop band whose song “The Golden Age” was featured in the original “The Entrance” video, the Heineken Open’er Festival (2012) which boasts a four-day long line-up of internationally known stars, and the Heineken Open (2012) which is New Zealand’s premier international men’s tennis event.