I’m deeply cynical of commercials. First, because they are made specifically to manipulate our emotions in some way so that we buy things. And second, because most of the time, that man on the street or “we found real people to try our product” stuff is super fake. I know because I’ve auditioned for dozens of them. And as an actor, I’ve been chosen to play a “real person” in more than one medium.
The point is, it’s really hard to make me cry over a commercial. But Heineken’s new ad? It did just that. Whoever came up with concept, cast the people, directed it, edited it… take a bow.
The ad sets up two strangers with completely opposing political views on a subject (the three issues they explore are transgender rights, climate change, and feminism) who meet and are asked to complete a project together. Along the way, they’re provided with cards that ask them to get into personal conversations. This part is actually quite lovely. The pairs reveal painful details about their lives and insecurities. The cards push them to really listen to and have empathy for one another. Then, after the teams have bonded emotionally, the eye in the sky projects videos of these same people offering opinions about the polarizing issue at hand. Each pair then has the option to discuss their differing viewpoints over a beer (obviously a Heineken), or leave. In the end, all of the subjects choose to stay and are able to find common ground.
It’s really, really effective. The ad leaves you with a genuine sense of hopefulness about the world. It’s just a great reminder that people are often able to put aside their differences when faced with an actual person rather than an idea. There are minds changed. There are friendships formed. Which — unlike giving cops Pepsi amidst riots — is a little more in line with how we effectively solve issues.
So why does this ad work so well when Pepsi’s dip into the political sphere was such a gigantic fiasco? Well, to begin with, Heineken doesn’t shy away from picking actual controversial subjects — unlike Pepsi who commandeered real movements and then whitewashed them into people marching generically for “love” and “peace.” Heineken treated us like grown ups and they provided real solutions. Unlike Kendall Jenner’s gesture, Heineken proposes that one on one conversations can create real change in viewpoints. Something that has been proven in studies. Their product isn’t a magical band aid, but they suggest it can be a tool to facilitate friendship and bonding. Yes, they’re still trying to sell something, but they’re doing so in a way that seems to be less jaded and smarmy. It completely turned off my cynicism (for an hour? Two?).
While it feels like the ad leans liberal (perhaps because I’m viewing it from a liberal lens) it doesn’t actually come down on one side or the other about anything. It doesn’t make anyone the villain. It in fact, humanizes both sides and shows them as reasonable, well meaning, kind people. Even if we find their views to be the opposite of those things, it’s hard to hate the individuals. Which is the point.
As jaded as we can be about the world around us (I wrote something like, “The world is a terrible place” earlier today), this ad taps into the vulnerable side in all of us. At the end of the day, we want human connection, love, and friendship to be the key to solving the world’s problems. We want to know that everyone out there is capable of listening, that minds can be changed, and love can win.
Who’d have thought we’d be thanking a beer company for melting our cold, icy hearts today?