The flagrant commercialization of revolutions was a matter of time. For two beverage brands, Pepsi and Heineken, that time was Spring 2017, during which they both released ads with direct references to current political divides. While Pepsi’s fell flat, going viral for all the wrong reasons, Heineken’s was hailed—perhaps ironically—as a sobering wake-up call.
The fight against privilege-related injustices, in Pepsi’s imagination, will be led by a step-Kardashian. In ‘Join the Conversation’, Kendall Jenner, with only a blue can of the soft drink in hand, has the power to bring police over to protesters’ side. The world, at least its digital denizens, responded with a resounding ‘no’, loud enough to have the company pull its tone-deaf advert and halt further rollout of the campaign.
A month later, the Dutch brewing company Heineken released an ingenious ad not merely in terms of content but also timing, providing more ammunition against Pepsi in the form of ‘this is how it’s done’ headlines and commentary—and triumphing, if only by contrast.
Opening with a social experiment, Heineken’s ‘World Apart’ is a short film that pairs six strangers who learn of each other’s opposing worldviews only after having assembled a bar together. Declining the choice to leave, they all stay to discuss their differences over a beer, proving the brand’s message that there is “more that unites us than divides us”.
Despite being declared the antidote of Pepsi’s PR disaster, 'World Apart' has not been immune to controversy, eliciting critique on its normalization of transphobia and dangerous beliefs on global warming and gender justice. Those legitimate concerns have been diluted by the fact that the film is part of the 'Open Your World' campaign, which includes more concrete efforts by Heineken to promote openness and support the ‘science of common ground’.
World Apart Credits
Developed at Publicis London
Director: Toby Dye through RSA
Media Agency: Mediavest Spark
Global CCO: Bruno Bertelli (Publicis Worldwide)
ECDs: Dave Monk (Publicis London); Cristiana Boccassini (Publicis Italy)
Heineken Global Digital CD: Milos Obradovic (Publics Italy)
Heineken CD: Marcus Iles (Publicis London)
Creatives: Seb Howling, Dom Desmond, Mark Daw, Rudhraigh Mcgrath
Head of Production: Colin Hickson