Posts tagged ‘advertising’

April 30, 2017

#127) Drinking problems: Why “Worlds Apart” won’t get me to buy Heineken

There are two reasons why Heineken’s new “Worlds Apart” ad won’t make me by the beer.

The short reason: I don’t like Heineken. No matter how artfully an advertisement’s visual look is curated, how lovingly its message is crafted or how on fleek its hashtags are, if I don’t like the product, I’m not spending money on it.

The long reason: call me a hater, but Heineken takes the easy approach with “Worlds Apart.” You’ve heard the old adage “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” Well, no one ever got criticized (at least by the media, the entertainment industry and other People Whose Opinions Matter) for touting diversity. No one ever got fired for joining the fist-shaking mob chasing down someone or something that has been publicly offensive: John Rocker, Larry Craig, Todd Akin and most recently Pepsi and their controversial ad.

Indeed, “Worlds Apart” has been hailed as the antidote to Pepsi’s reviled campaign that featured Kendall Jenner as a saint who instantly creates world peace by giving a police officer a Pepsi in the middle of a giant protest. By contrast, “Worlds Apart” is hitting all the right notes. An anti-trans man meets a trans soldier. A climate change denier meets an activist. A feminist meets a man who feels that feminism is all about man hating. Without knowing that they hold opposite views, these pairs of people get to know each other. After they build a bar together in a warehouse, they learn of each others’ contrasting opinions. They are then given the choice of walking out or discussing their differences at the bar over a Heineken. (Spoiler alert…)

Unity. Diversity. Beer. What’s not to like?

Perhaps if I felt marginalized the way some of the people in the commercial do, I might have an entirely different perspective, but my questions are:

  • Is it the job of a beer (or any other food or beverage product) to teach me about diversity or is its job just to taste good?
  • Has the “I used to hate _____s but now that I’ve met one, I don’t hate them anymore” trope perhaps run its course?
  • Are there sometimes when it’s best to just politely walk away from a discussion you would prefer not to have?
  • Does this commercial expect people with more “acceptable” views to rethink their positions too?
  • Doesn’t Heineken’s response to the Pepsi backlash feel like a perfect sibling volunteering to teach a kombucha making workshop at the prison where the family black sheep is doing time for soliciting an undercover cop posing as a 14 year old boy online? At least a little bit?

Granted, part of advertising is to convince the target audience that purchasing the product will make them feel a certain way – inclusive, tolerant, conscientious –  but, and I say this as someone who has quaffed an ale or two in his time, at the end of the day it’s just beer.

I do believe that “Worlds Apart” is coming from a good place. I think it was made by honest people who care about the issues – yes, they are trying to sell beer, but I also think they want to promote civilized debate and discussion – and want to create something positive in the wake of Pepsi. I’m just not quite ready to jump on the Heineken as Heroes bandwagon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Heineken does hold a special place in my heart that no other brand – not even any IPA – can claim, but it goes back to something that happened when Kendall Jenner was a twinkle in Bruce/Caitlyn’s eye. My wife visited Amsterdam when she was in her early 20s, took the Heineken brewery tour, did what people do on such a thing and then became the only person I’ve ever known to go to the Anne Frank house while intoxicated. If that doesn’t prove that we’re meant to be together, nothing does.

But I digress.

And I still don’t like beer.

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November 19, 2011

#30) The tragic death of Mama Zuma’s lover

It’s kind of ironic: celebrities are paid millions to endorse products, but yesterday I bought a bag of habanero potato chips from my friends’ store, Olives Gourmet Grocer, after being inspired by a fictional character.

Mama Zuma, you see, is the face of Route 11’s habanero-flavored potato chip.  The habanero, for those who don’t know, is the hottest pepper (much hotter than a jalapeno) that you can get without having to go on the black market.  But there are a surprising number of gluttons for gastronomical punishment out there, which means that there are many entrants into the habanero potato chip market.  So Route 11 decided that Mama Zuma might make their product stand out.

But they didn’t just stop at having a sexy cartoon character emblazoned on the bag.  They gave Mama Zuma back story.  She wasn’t always mean, you see.  But when her lover died in a “bizarre and tragic potato peeler accident”, it drove her into a fit of rage and she made her life’s mission to burn as many men as possible with her kiss of fire.

Well, any mind creative enough to come up with a story like that deserves my dollar, I decided, so I picked up a bag to go with my lunch.  The chips were deceptive: at first, they tasted more like strong barbecue chips, but the real habanero flavor kicked in and I quickly required a water chaser.  I would recommend them, but those who are not used to the taste of a habanero pepper should start with one at a time.

But the real point is that what attracted me to Mama Zuma was not the fact, but the fiction.  So many commercials are fact-oriented, which gets boring pretty quickly.  (Go on all you want about how your food is made on a self-sustaining farm in Guam by indigenous peoples who are paid a fair wage; you’ve lost me after ten seconds).  No matter how much celebrities may be paid to tell me what to buy, Mama Zuma’s tragic story made her product jump out at me from among all of my other lunch choices.   In the end, I was just another one of her victims.

August 1, 2011

#19) Selling It Old School

A New York Times commercial shows people relaxing, enjoying the Sunday crossword puzzle; listening to the crinkle of the pages as they spread them out.  A telephone land line commercial shows a family, all talking on their own extensions, listening to their soldier son calling from the Middle East, allowing them to share the conversation in a way that a cellular phone wouldn’t allow.

I normally ignore or fast forward (thanks, Tivo!) over commercials, but I liked these two: they’re taking print media and land line telephones, two things that many people think are doomed, and finding new meaning in them.  They’re not necessarily saying that the traditional products are better than their modern counterparts.  They’re just reminding us that while modern inventions can make our life easier, sometimes the older way can have its place too.

Of course, singing the praises of the “good old days” isn’t exactly a new concept, but these ads place a new twist on it.  Often, the subject of a “good old days” take is something very obsolete, but here, we see them in their decline, not in their extinction.  I’m sure the makers of these ads know that, despite their best efforts, in this day, far fewer people will ever read the Times in its print form than online, and that mobile phones will be more popular than land lines.  But still, these ads aren’t letting their products go down without a fight, and I like that.