Coke taught the world to sing. Heineken’s showing us how to listen.

Coke taught the world to sing. Heineken’s showing us how to listen.

A short time ago, we spent a few minutes having some fun at the expense of the so-called “real people” who inhibit the strange, strange world of the Chevy ads.

And pretty much the entire world has had its say about the egregious Pepsi/Kendall Jenner spot. No need to pile on. (Okay, a little piling on will happen a few paragraphs down.)

Thankfully, there’s some good news. A brand that’s really REALLY gotten it right. A brand that, like Chevy, is using some “real people.” A brand, like Pepsi, that’s looking to be seen as in-the-moment and relevant.

That’s brand is Heineken. And the spot that’s got us so excited isn’t just another ad. It’s really more of a short film. (Much like Lumber 84’s transcendent Super Bowl ad/film, reviewed here.)

And this film, as Chevy purports to do, also employs real people. But there people are a little different. They are actually … real.

Chevy artlessly uses their people as props. Look, here are some people we’re telling you are “real” so you know you can trust them, okay? Those are some genuine gasps, oohs and aahs. No copywriter could write anything that “real” … right? Just trust us on that.

Let’s contrast that with Heineken. First of all, there’s an idea behind the Heineken film that goes beyond people just like you providing the exclamation points we can’tThere are many ideas at work, actually. People don’t see eye-to-eye. They make rhetorical statements that may upset or even injure other real people. When they do get a chance to really talk to someone rather than at them, extreme points of view are often moderated.

Now, what about the contrast to Pepsi? Pepsi took the complicated, vexing, insoluble public discourse and tried to tie it up in a neat little bow and have the package presented to us by the most vapid, unserious, inconsequential celebrity they could possibly find.

But enough about that. Back to this wonderful little film, which employs one of the very best adages of great advertising (and good communication, in general). Show, don’t tell.

So we don’t NEED a placard telling us these are real people (as opposed to, what, androids? Replicants?). Instead, we get something infinitely better. People acting like real, interesting, multifaceted, flawed, funny people don’t require a title card to identify them.

Yes, yes, we get it. Just like the Chevy spots, this is a contrived situation on a soundstage. But, where Chevy chose to have a blandly jovial game show host-ish gentleman goose responses from the group (Chevy, like Buick, seems to think they need to crush our existing perceptions of how mediocre they’ve always been), Heineken lets these people actually BE real. (Don’t worry, we’re not naïve, we know a lot of prompting and editing that went on to get the final result.)

You know what the Heineken spot sells, perhaps better than any brand I’ve seen lately? Hopefulness.

I watch this spot, and I feel, even for a few minutes, that maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem. And, yes, I DO feel like grabbing a beer with someone … even, or especially, with someone who’s not just like me. Decades ago, Coke taught the world to sing. Today, Heineken is showing us how to listen.






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