Heineken’s New Political Ad

“Heineken’s New Political Ad” was originally published on the Scrum Alliance website on May 9, 2017: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2017/may/heineken-s-new-political-ad-(1).aspx
Heineken’s new political ad sells beer, not teamwork.
In case you haven’t seen it, beer manufacturer Heineken recently released an ad that uses political division as a marketing platform, to great effect. The political ad features three pairs of people, each with strongly held opposing views. There’s the climate-change denier with the environmentalist, the feminist with the alt-rightie, and the transgender woman with a man who strongly believes in the gender binary.

The reaction online to the ad, at least among my left-leaning friends, has been very positive — far more than the reaction to Pepsi’s appropriative Kendall Jennings ad. People resonate with the Heineken ad and the message of unity, and the ad will probably sell some imported beer.

But what Heineken is selling isn’t beer. It’s teamwork and cooperation.

The pairs of participants are given a set of instructions that start with “Put together some Ikea furniture.” A basic, if possibly frustrating, teamwork exercise in which they are forced to cooperate to successfully build something. Next, they’re given space to sit and get to know each other in an icebreaker format. The questions aren’t political. They’re positive things like, “What do we have in common?” and “Describe yourself in five words.”

Those of us who have run any kind of training exercise are familiar with both of these exercises. The first is a fairly intense team-building exercise. The second is a get-to-know-you networking moment, which is designed to build rapport with strangers — useful in team building as well as sales training.

They then have another build exercise: this time adding a bar top to the table and chairs they’ve built, and then finding a frosty Heineken hidden nearby. (As a side note: I hope that the second iteration of building is easier and faster than the first!)

Finally, after building all this rapport, the participants are shown videos wherein they describe their deeply held political beliefs, and they are invited to either walk away or sit down and talk it out over a beer.

Since this is a beer commercial, and Heineken isn’t airing the participants who didn’t sit down for a beer, we then see the participants do exactly that and come to some understanding of each other. As professional team builders, I am sure we’re familiar with the importance of creating rapport and doing cooperative exercises to build teams.

Assuming that they didn’t script everything, I’d be interested to know how many “failed pairs” Heineken had when they were filming. My guess is, with two team exercises and an icebreaker, not many.

Written by

Stephanie Bryant is a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) with a technical documentation background from Las Vegas, Nevada. She helped a 100% remote defense contractor team transition to Scrum in 2016, bringing them to be more functional and productive thanks to improved communication and teamwork. Before falling in love with Scrum, Stephanie was a technical writer for 20 years and has written several books, including Videoblogging for Dummies. As an entrepreneur, she wrote and published a 4-issue comic book for knitters and has written or contributed to several tabletop games. Stephanie is an accomplished public speaker and trainer, having presented at professional conferences and user groups for the Society for Technical Communication, WebWorks, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat. She has both online and in-classroom experience as a teacher and trainer, having taught technical writing courses online and Freshman composition in the classroom at San Jose State University. She's also led teams, both professionally (as a Scrum Master and entrepreneur) and on a volunteer basis in her tenure as an officer of a local Toastmasters group, the Society for Technical Communication, and the National Writers Union, where she served as the national chair for the book authors' division. Stephanie is now turning her unique set of leadership, training, and Agile skills to a career in helping other teams learn to love Scrum and improve their teams and processes.