How does Heineken's new ad make you feel?
The spot, titled "Worlds Apart," follows pairs of people with diametrically opposing worldviews who are dropped into a warehouse and instructed to work together to build a piece of furniture. As the experiment progresses, its subjects get to talking — about themselves at first, but also, inevitably, about their politics. Both parties become softer and more human before our eyes, and then they're shown a short video of the interviews they gave before the start of the commercial.
"So transgender, it is very odd. We're not set up to understand or see things like that," one man says, followed by a clip of his partner's interview: "I am a daughter, a wife. I am transgender."
At the end of the experiment, the pairs (which also include a feminist and a man who views feminism as "man-hating", and a climate change activist and a climate change doubter), are given a choice: They can walk away, or sit down at their newly assembled bar — they were building a bar the whole time! — and discuss their differences over an ice cold Heineken.
All three pairs choose the Heineken.
The ad is just the latest in a long line of attempts by brands to politically supercharge their products in order to capitalize on a new era of über-woke consumers. Most recently, Pepsi faceplanted miserably after the company's attempt to use Black Lives Matter-esque protest imagery to sell sodas outraged the exact demographic it was trying to pull in.
And Heineken isn't even the only beer company playing this game. During the 2017 Super Bowl, Budweiser aired an ad that followed an immigrant's struggle to assimilate to life in the United States in the 1800s, just days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
The list of well-known companies pandering to progressive-minded consumers goes on and on: CoverGirl, H&M, AirBnB, Audi, Dove and more have all produced ads recently centered around issues like diversity, self-esteem, body positivity and gender nonconformity. In 2015, Starbucks launched its famously bad "Race Together" campaign, which encouraged beleaguered baristas to talk to customers about race issues.
Brands love to drape themselves in social justice issues like they're jewelry — they want to make it seem like they care about the very causes they're exploiting in order to sell you their shit. Is it working?
It seemed to be on Wednesday, at least for former Saturday Night Live star Taran Killam, who called the ad "beautiful" in a tweet.
"I don't drink beer. But maaaaybe I will now?" he wrote.
The media was also quick to heap on the praise. An article for Fast Company ran under the headline, "Heineken just put out the antidote to that Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad." And from Forbes: "New Heineken film cleverly opens minds with social experiment."
The insidiousness of the Heineken ad isn't in the dialogue exchanged between the pairs of participants (which, admittedly, has the desired effect of being heartwarming) — it's in the cynical attempt by a massive global brand to make money off of the same political beliefs that people lose their lives trying to defend.
Pull back the curtain, and Heineken's "experiment" isn't an awareness campaign designed by a socially-conscious group of activists — it's a brand play devised by a bunch of ad executives who are trying to sell you the beer that they're shilling.
Heineken's ad is supposed to make us feel relieved and happy that a man who doesn't think trans women are women is down to crack a beer and talk through his beliefs. But also, more importantly, it's supposed to make us feel like drinking a Heineken.