When I first saw the new Heineken beer advert there was many thoughts that ran through my mind and feelings that I, well, felt. As a sucker for those feel good, emotive viral videos that are designed to make you think and that often make you cry, there were aspects of this that made me feel the way the brand wanted me to feel.
And then, the cynic in me had another way to look at it.
I don’t like that often we are marketed to in an emotive way. I don’t like that corporations play with our emotions for their financial gains. But these days, that is what many brands do. Instead of showing us the product and selling us how good it is, they sell us a feel good time, a good cry, or something that connects with us on a level that makes us feel like we can change the world for the better.
And then there’s the Pepsi advert. That’s the only sentence I’m going to write about that one. That’s all that needs to be said about that one. (Okay, I get that that’s actually three sentences, no wait, four including this one referring to that terrible advert, so there IS a tad of irony within the second sentence in this paragraph).
I try to be objective. I try to forget the brand and see the video for what it is. So I looked at it again and saw something that a few of my friends picked up on. On one side of the fence is someone who comes into the conversation with either sexist views, homophobic or transphobia views, and, although it’s a weird one, a climate change denier. As someone who sits on the other side of the fence to all of those people and their views it is hard to listen to their “evil” rhetoric.
And that’s exactly the thing that was written about in a post that was shared on Facebook by a few of my friends. Writer, The DiDi Delgado had a post published on Medium.
In her post she writes;
“I understand the urge to like the Heineken ad. It shows people with opposing viewpoints finding common ground while engaging civilly and bonding over capitalism. It’s a liberal turkey lightly basted with conservative values. The Pepsi ad was more like a frozen Butterball to the face. So what’s not to like? Well… everything.”
This post was shared by friends that I respect. Friends who I know sit on the same side of the fence when it comes to every social and humanitarian issues. Friends who believe that black lives matter, the LGBT community is not the scourge of mankind, that feminism is as much an issue men need to get behind as women need to, and yes, that climate change is real. Friends who even called me out for being on the wrong side of the fence on some issues, or leaning a little over the fence from the right side of it.
The crux of the argument that The Didi Delgado puts forward is that Heineken is letting the voices of those “evil” people be heard, and that is a bad thing. She states that the idea of two people with opposing views sitting and having a beer promotes the voice of the “backwards” thinking person to be equal to the voice of the person on the side of truth, justice, and the (American) way. That last bit is of course the tagline from the Superman comics with “the American way” held up as being on the side of what is good and just, but if you look at who is waving the Stars and Stripes more often, and in more than the proverbial sense, it’s those who most rational people would see as the bigots, homophobes and downright regressive thinking people.
Should their voices be heard? Should those who are racist, sexist, homophobes be heard? Maybe…
I know that I often am seen at “bashing” religious people on my blog, and, when it is those overtly religious extremists that are the regressive thinking type, I believe it’s justifiable, so no one will be shocked when I introduce the right wing Christian fundamentalists into this argument.
When it comes to having someone to represent the views on the other side of the fence, the Westboro Baptist Church would have a plethora of suitable candidates to have a beer with to discuss your differences. But would you want to share a beer with them and discuss things? (I reckon you’ve just answered ‘no’ because you believe that it wouldn’t change their minds. Am I right?)
And maybe before this morning I would have thought the same as you. But one of the first things that my phone recommended I do this morning was watch a TED talk on YouTube. And I’m glad I did. The video in question is one of Megan Phelps-Roper’s TED talk. Megan Phelps-Roper is a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, and her talk is well worth watching.
As you can see, or for those who haven’t or couldn’t watch it, Megan Phelps-Roper was convinced by people who didn’t just keep screaming at her, but people who had a proverbial beer with her. Okay, so the beer wasn’t actually present, and clearly not needed, but the crux of what she is talking about is how sitting down and discussing the views of both sides meant that one of the sides may come out on top and win the argument, and claim the playing piece of the other side.
For most of the people reading this post of mine, or the people watching those TED talks, having her lose the argument and having her falling from the Dark Side to the Light is a worthy victory. But for some, they may think that there’s a risk in losing some of the good people to the Dark Side.
The outcome of the views of the climate change denier is not clearly shown, and from what you can take away from the end of their conversation is that both he and his opposing view beer buddy is that both will walk away having the same views, but they’ll debate it in a friendly matter. Their part of the video is frivolous in comparison to the other two opposing views I believe.
The guy who came across as sexist and anti-feminist looks like hearing the other side of the debate may change his views. I mean he does toast with the words “death to the patriarchy,” albeit in a jovial manner. But still, a staunch anti-feminist wouldn’t even joke about it.
And the guy who is against transgender people is merely the product of what he was brought up to believe, and looking at the outcome of their discussion, having the beer and discussion with him was well worth it. Having already acknowledging his opponent and holding them in high esteem for being ex-military, it would be hard for him to take that back now knowing that a person who he would have previously believed is beneath him is actually more worthy of praise than he.
I think what we need to do is be subjective and not bring any of our own bias into any argument or we can lose our audience on a technicality. Although I nodded and agreed with a lot that The Didi Delgado wrote, where she lost me was with her bias towards the product describing Heineken as;
“…the 3rd shittiest beer on the planet…”
This line took away from the argument when it made me think that she may have been more receptive if the advert was representing “the 3rd greatest beer on the planet.” Hell, it may have been her favourite advert of all time if it was created by the makers of “the number one beer on the planet.”
But if we take the product placement out of this, and we listen to the words of Megan Phelps-Roper, we DO need to listen, engage and discuss our opinions with those with opposing views without getting violent, calling them names, and talking over the top. If those people in the streets standing besides the Westboro protests or on engaging Twitter didn’t listen to her, the Westboro Baptist Church would still have her, plus three of her siblings and playing pieces on their side of the chess board. And I for one wouldn’t like that.
Disclaimer: This is the second time on my blog I’ve come to the defence of Heineken. Although I wouldn’t call it “…the 3rd shittiest beer on the planet…” I am not a fan of that beer myself, but I don’t think that they have done a huge disservice to truth and justice in this particular advertising campaign. You can read my previous defence of the brand here.