The Awards Report

Heineken Says Risk Is 'Ingrained In Its DNA'

Dutch Brewer's Execs Discuss Breaking Creative Boundaries

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As part of Ad Age's latest annual Awards Report tabulating the most creatively celebrated companies and personalities of the year, we asked winning marketers and agencies about their campaigns.

Heineken made the top 20 most awarded marketers on our Awards List, which tallies the results from the advertising industry's most respected global shows. Notable campaigns for a number of brands, including Heineken, Dos Equis and Amstel, helped earn its spot on the list. Among its bounty: the parent brand's "Legendary Journey" campaign won the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix at Cannes, while the effort below out of Publicis Milan, featuring an unorthodox job interview, earned Gold at multiple shows.

In an email interview, Gianluca Di Tondo, senior director of the global Heineken brand, and Sandrine Huijgen, global communications director, talked about what makes a highly creative campaign.

What kind of fortitude does it take to back a seemingly risky marketing plan?
Our creative strategy is one of disruptive entertainment and with the ambition to be consistently unexpected. This obviously conveys a healthy dose of risk. It is ingrained in Heineken's Dutch DNA and entrepreneurial spirit to get out of our comfort zone.

How do you get buy in from higher ups to pursue an unorthodox marketing approach?
A shared creative ambition is the starting point, but also trust is essential and has been growing over the past years. We have consistency and expertise in the Heineken brand team and in our agency partners. When high management knows the team, trusts their understanding of the brand and has been impressed by the excellence of the execution, there is a solid basis of trust.

Was there a backstory to how this came together?
The backstory is not one amazing story with an epiphany moment when we turned around Heineken brand communication. It has been a long journey, searching for the right answer, working on deepening what Heineken should stand for and bringing its brand voice back.

Can you offer advice for how to push the creative envelope and still get results?
There is obviously no magic recipe and many ingredients are needed: experience, expertise internally and externally, trust and ambition from higher management. But to have great creative, you need something more: relentless passion and a desire to put a lot of yourself into the work. You need a team that will live the brand values and in the case of Heineken it's about testing ourselves and to discover and be open to new possibilities.

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