Thursday, January 28, 2010
‘‘It’s All About the Beer’’ premiered two weeks before the 1999 Super Bowl, during telecasts of the National Football League (NFL) conference championship games. This choice of venue was a strategic move by Heineken to counteract Anheuser-Busch’s dominance in Super Bowl advertising by achieving comparable visibility for a fraction of the cost, while effectively taking center stage as the only advertiser offering Super Bowl–quality spots during those earlier games. Further, for the big game itself Heineken skirted Anheuser-Busch’s Super Bowl exclusivity agreement with the Fox network, which prohibited other brewers from buying national airtime during the big game, by buying time on selected local affiliates. Heineken spots ran during the Super Bowl in markets that included New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, cities accounting for 70 to 80 percent of the brand’s American sales.
In its bid to appeal to a younger and more down-toearth audience, Heineken took calculated risks of various types in the campaign’s individual spots. Commercials that broke in 1999 and ran through 2000 included ‘‘Mood Swing,’’ in which a fan in a basketball arena was shown doing something that had been unthinkable in an earlier era’s Heineken advertising: drinking the brew from a plastic cup. The dramatic crux of the spot came when the fan’s enthusiasm for his team caused him to spill his Heineken. Another spot, ‘‘The Weasel,’’ showed a man bringing a Budweiser-like beer to a house party and then filching another guest’s Heineken from the refrigerator. ‘‘Premature Pour’’ showed a man and woman pouring Heineken while eyeing one another seductively; excited, the man poured too much beer too quickly, and spilled it. ‘‘The Male Bonding Incident,’’ meanwhile, parodied heterosexual men’s hang-ups about homosexuality. The spot showed two sports-watching men accidentally holding hands while passing a Heineken bottle, before both recoiled in horror. While the sexuality and humor of these spots was in keeping with the tone of much beer advertising of the period, Heineken was almost alone among industry competitors in linking such human situations explicitly to its product. Each of the ‘‘beer moments’’ dramatized in the campaign, regardless of the human behavior exhibited, hinged on the presence not just of beer but of Heineken. Later executions of the ‘‘It’s All About the Beer’’ theme included a group of spots keyed to Heineken’s introduction of a keg-shaped can. In ‘‘The Envy,’’ which ran through 2002, two men stood next to one another at public urinals. Both set their beers on top of the receptacles, but one of the men could not stop looking at the other’s keg-shaped Heineken can. The Heineken drinker, rattled by the attention, left the restroom abruptly. In ‘‘The Poachers,’’ two friends in the checkout aisle of a supermarket stealthily moved the grocery divider on the conveyor belt so that another customer’s case of Heineken would be included among their own purchases.