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With Its Latest Ad, Heineken Achieved What Pepsi Was Too Afraid To: An Actual Message

You remember that tone-deaf Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, right? Yeah, we’re trying to forget, too. Thankfully, Heineken has released something that can serve as an amazing palate cleanser, clearing away any aftertaste left behind by that denim-wrapped monstrosity. Check out the ad above, called “Worlds Apart.”

In it, a group of six people with varied (and opposing) worldviews are paired up with their opposites to take part in an experiment. They aren’t told anything about the other person, or what the point of the experiment is. However, we as the viewer are privy to that information thanks to short segments in which each person tells us about themselves.

So, we know that the white, “new right” misogynist has been paired with the liberal black feminist, that the environmentalist has been paired with a climate change denier, and that the trans woman has been paired with the cis man who thinks that being trans is “not right.” As you watch the ad, you’re compelled in large part because you’re afraid for these people. I mean, you kind of figure that it’s not going to get too bad, because Heineken probably wouldn’t release an ad in which their experiment went horribly awry.

They end up chatting about themselves and are very complimentary to each other through the first half. The misogynist tells the feminist that she seems “quite ambitious and positive, and … you’ve got a glow, do you know what I’m saying? Your aura is really cool.” When the trans woman reveals that she’s served in the military, the cis guy expresses how proud he is of her and her service. The climate change denier compliments the environmentalist on the fact that he seems like a good listener, and they both talk about how fast they’re becoming friends.

Still, you’re on pins and needles as the truth is revealed, and toward the end of the experimentafter each pair had built a bar and stools togetherthey are shown the videos where they and their partners were expressing their views. They are then given a choice: walk away, or sit and talk about it over a beer.

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One moment that’s particularly heart-stopping is when the guy who was paired with the trans woman walked away. At first, we see her sitting alone at the bar and we’re stunned … but then the guy turns around and sits back down, and they both laugh. He was just kidding. Each of the pairs ends up being quite capable of having a conversation over beer.

What was successful about this ad that absolutely failed in the Pepsi ad, is that this ad actually dealt with real and specific concerns. Whereas the Pepsi ad featured a protest with non-committal signs reading “Join the conversation,” (the conversation about what exactly?) this ad wasn’t afraid to be about specific things: feminism, transphobia, climate change.

It also used real, average people, rather than Kendall Jenner and her denim-clad protest army pretending to be average people. This gave the ad a dramatic tension that can’t be faked.

Lastly, Heineken, like Pepsi, placed value on the conversation, but that conversation was based firmly in reality. Whereas in the Pepsi ad, the simple act of handing a police officer a Pepsi and having him accept it was reason enough for the crowd to go crazy, here we’re left with the sense that the chatting over a beer is just the beginning. It’s a happy moment in the moment, but we’re under no illusions. There’s still much more work to do, and this ad is a teensy first step, albeit an important one. However, after having the chance to get to know each other casually and socially first, before delving into the politics, these six people are a little more equipped to begin that work than they were before.

It’s easy to be cynical about advertising, and that cynicism likely increases or decreases in direct correlation to one’s feelings about capitalism. I, for one, am a bit of an advertising and marketing geek, and I believe that certain ads are successful because there’s an art to them. All art is trying to relay a message, whether it wants you to think about a particular political message, feel an emotion, relate to the artist in some way … or even buy a product.

This Heineken ad was both good art and solid advertising.

(via The Daily Dot, featured image: screenshot)

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