Eager to grab the interest of the younger drinking-age male, Dutch beer maker Heineken last December introduced a new marketing campaign under the banner "Open Your World." An elaborate 90-second spot titled The Entrance premiered online. It quickly became a viral hit, and has been viewed more than 3.6 million times on YouTube.
Three months later, the ad migrated to television, while Heineken's YouTube channel also became a destination for additional videos featuring vignettes of the characters depicted in The Entrance, extending the storyline and creating more buzz (and views).
Heineken is hoping to strike digital gold again, once again using a web-first strategy by premiering The Date, the second spot in the "Open Your World" campaign on its YouTube channel and Facebook page before running the ad on TV in September.
Once again, the commercial is richly filmed and elaborately choreographed, resembling more of a short movie than an ad. While the the characters and story lines are different, the ads look and feel alike. They feature suave, young male heroic figures doing fantastic, cool things — clearly a direct appeal to the target audience.
Alexis Nasard, chief commercial officer for Heineken International, tells Stuart Elliott of the New York Times that the brand wanted to "think digital at the inception, not as an afterthought" to reach consumers who "over-index in Internet usage."
Smartly, and strategically, Heineken is investing heavily in digital marketing. In addition to this campaign, the company recently introduced StarPlayer for soccer fans, a unique "dual screen" digital gaming app for the iPhone.
The beer brand is one of a growing number of major brand marketers who see digital as leading the marketing charge in the new media world. Not very long ago, online media was something of an afterthought, used only to support more traditional media such as television and print.
But as consumers increasingly watch movies online and socialize via websites and smartphones, advertisers are directing their efforts there as well. With the move to online also comes the introduction of high-end production values that rival traditional television commercials.
Heineken has another challenge with its "Open your world" campaign — to be globally relevant. The first ad appeared on television in some 30 countries. That could be one reason there was no dialog, just the global language of music and a range of quirky characters of many nationalities.
But Heineken is taking a special interest in how the campaign is received in the United States because, writes Elliott, "American sales of Heineken have slumped as many drinkers shun expensive imported beers." Interestingly, the US market was left out of the brand's packaging relaunch late last year.
Indeed, Heineken's Nasard admitted "Our brand in the United States has lost some of its cachet." Not, however, on the web.