Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Heineken: The water in Majorca

Heineken isn’t a British beer. Originating in the Netherlands in 1873, it’s still primarily brewed there to this day. However, we Brits have developed such a taste for the brand that we gave it a fully-fledged Cockney character back in the 1980s. How did we do this? Through the School of Street Credibility!

This advert sees a delightfully prim and proper young lady attempting to recite the sentence “The water in Majorca don’t taste like what it oughta” in a brash East End accent, but instead coming across as if she’s in a dramatisation of Jane Eyre. The bullish but likeable ‘speech coach’ is reaching the end of his tether, desperately repeating “Ma-jow-ka” before slumping into his seat in resignation. Luckily, his office dogsbody brings in some cool refreshment, advising the woman to “get yer laughing gear round that”. And hallelujah, suddenly she could land a lead role in Only Fools and Horses, and the concluding few seconds are the icing on the cake (or the head on the pint, if you will).

Years later, we were all unwittingly exposed to a horrifying scene: Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, each dressed in romantic garb, playing the piano and swinging in a tree respectively, both singing ‘Why do birds suddenly appear?’ and making far too much eye contact with the viewer. The culmination was a menacingly calm caption that read, ‘Buy a pint of Heineken or we’ll keep running this commercial’. Those evil geniuses!

Nevertheless, the British public doesn’t like to be coerced into buying things. We each believe we’re shrewd customers: we know what we want and we reckon we’re far from impressionable. Still, this stubbornness was our downfall when, a short while later, a second version of the advert was released, very similar to the first but even more painful due to the addition of Peter Stringfellow and Vanessa Feltz. Oh, the humanity! Heineken was just as cruel this time around too, taunting us with an “I told you so” attitude.

Finally, we all surrendered and bought a pint of Heineken (let’s face it, we had no choice), and were then rewarded with something the entire family could enjoy. It was at this point that the brand’s strapline really did ring true: ‘How refreshing. How Heineken.’

Recently, in early 2011, we were treated to a particular lollapalooza of a commercial, but one that caused a wee bit of controversy. Called ‘The Entrance’, a veritable superhuman of a gent enters a mansion and wows the guests with, in this particular order, warmth, respect, surprise, speed, geniality, spectacle, chivalry, precision, high fives, sportsmanship, magic, martial arts, dexterity and music, all with unfailing charm. Some viewers believed Heineken was stating that alcohol contributes to ‘social and sexual success’. This, thankfully, was overruled by the ASA on the grounds that the character doesn’t drink a drop of alcohol during the advert and the brand itself is shown for only a few seconds during the 90-second run time.

The first global campaign in five years, this advert was shot in Spain and features the Danish group The Asteroids Galaxy Tour. Back in 1999 Heineken was voted 'Brand of the Century' in the Netherlands, but the last few years have seen a slip in sales. Perhaps this current campaign, with its proactive slogan ‘Open your world’, is just what the brand needs, and with almost a million views within the first week of launching, Heineken may well receive prestigious awards once again.

So whether parody, blackmail or extravaganza, Heineken is one brand that knows how to get our attention. And for all of you out there who, like me, enjoyed the tune in the recent advert, here’s the full video just for you. But prepare yourself; it’s a Danish psychedelic space trip! How refreshing.

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