When Advertising Taps into Social Issues

The past month has seen two ads trying to tap into social issues to sell their product – with very different results.  A few weeks ago, Pepsi released an ad in which Kendall Jenner joins a protest that was perceived to be tone-deaf and thought to trivialize the Black Lives Matter movement.  In contrast, Heineken just released an ad that shows people with opposing views find common ground, which has received overwhelmingly positive response.

The Heineken ad shows pairs of people working together to build some furniture and getting to know each other.  They are then shown video clips of each other expressing their polar opposite views (e.g., one pair consists of a transgender woman and a man who feels transgender is “not right”).  They are then given the choice to leave or stay and discuss their differences over a Heineken; they find they are much more open to dialogue than they were before.

The ad highlights a basic human mechanism: when people get to know each other, they’re less likely to demonize the other person and more willing to engage in a constructive exchange.  We utilize this approach in focus groups (and not just on social issues): get people with opposing views (e.g., customers and non-customers) to have a discussion, and see which arguments sway people.  Bonus tip: have them fill out a written survey of their opinions before and after the discussion – that way, they don’t have to admit publicly to changing their minds.

Let’s look for ways to change your prospects’ minds!  Call me at 818-752-7210 or email info at bureauwest.com.


Sources: “Pepsi’s Tone-Deaf Kendall Jenner Ad Co-opting the Resistance Is Getting Clobbered in Social,” Adweek, 4/4/17; “Heineken Just Put Out The Antidote to That Pepsi Kendall Jenner Ad,” Fast Company, 4/26/17; Bureau West research