Bonding over beer: Heineken gets political and it is a lesson for Pepsi

Following the Pepsi fail where the company trivialised social activism to sell soda, Heineken goes and gets political, and surprisingly it is an amazing. You won’t find Kendall Jenner here, or a colour-coordinated fake ass rally with picture perfect Instagram/Snapchat generation holding up lukewarm calls to action (If you haven’t, catch my thought on the ‘Pepsistence’ here). Instead you get real people, real people with opposing views.

The premise of the #OpenYourWorld campaign is simple and therein lies its genius: get a few pairs of people with opposing views on a particular issue, place them in a warehouse with flatpack furniture to encourage team building, present them with two bottles of Heineken and ask them to make a choice after a big reveal. Once they see projected on the screen their flatpack co-builder air their dissenting opinions, do they stay to talk it over beer or do they leave.

While I reckon it would have taken anyone serious gumption to walk away at that stage, regardless it is an effective ad. One of the most touching pairings is of the man who speaks on gender.

“That’s not right. You’re a man, be a man; or you’re female, be a female,” he says, matter-of-fact, on video, as his partner, a transgender woman, looks uncomfortable in his presence.

For a moment, it’s touch and go and you are rooting for the man to stay after the big reveal. Later on the man admits to being brought up in a world where things were “black and white”. His tone now is more considerate, less fiery.

I wish there was another pairing in a world that’s getting increasingly more polarised on the issue of religion: that of the Muslim and the Christian. But perhaps that was a risk too far for Heineken, one which may prove technically challenging considering the Muslim take on alcohol).

The campaign will continue with a series of events created in partnership with The Human Library, a unique not-for-profit organisation that uses conversation to challenge stereotypes. More info is at

Regardless, they pulled this one off showing Pepsi and other brands how to successfully handle social issues.

Here’s to hoping we can all be courageous enough to sit down with our beverage of choice to hash out our differences.


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