Casting an old guy was controversial. Originally Euro presented
younger guys more in the target. But the concept wasn't credible
without the guy being more seasoned. The inspiration was the uncle
who never got married and was always doing cool shit,
Hemingway-esque. He doesn't really speak in the spots so he was
chosen for his look. We spent more time talking about his beard,
whether it was OK to have one and how grey it should or shouldn't
Because FEMSA still owned the brands at that time, I had to get
them to buy into strategic moves. This new campaign needed their
buy-in before we could produce it. I remember having over a
three-hour conversation well into the night with my counterpart in
Monterrey, Mexico, discussing the concept, the scripts, etc.,
trying to explain the nuance of the idea to a guy who was pretty
literal and whose first language was Spanish. And at the end of
three hours he simply said, "I don't get it. But we know you are
passionate about it and we trust you."
So the next day I called Kling and told him the story that they
didn't get it and didn't really like the campaign, but they
committed to support its development because they trusted me. So I
asked him if he was sure it was going to be as good as we thought
it was. And he gave this "yeah, sure" kind of answer. But I said to
Jeff that I really needed to know that he was personally committed
to make this great because I felt like I had really put my balls on
the line for this campaign, and I really wanted to make sure he was
committed and had his balls to be on the table with
mine….yeah sure. So then I went to Andy, the HUSA president
and told him the story and he basically said your balls are on the
table, but so are mine.
The original tagline was a lame translation of the strategy
statement, something like "Dos Equis, the most interesting beer in
the world." Our challenge was always can't we say it without saying
it. And right before the work was going to be shown at the
[distributors] convention, Kling called me up and said I think I've
got it, would you consider changing the end line to "Stay thirsty,
The work initially debuted at our wholesaler convention to about
5,000 people. We had just finished a dress rehearsal the night
before at about 9 p.m. and the VP of sales comes over and goes, "We
can't show it, the works no good." The marketing team and the
agency knew it was good and the next day the response from the 5000
wholesalers was instantaneous. All the doubters became
FEMSA came to Heineken USA because of the work we had done on
brand Heineken. They wanted Dos Equis to be more like Heineken at
the time. By the time the campaign launched, the Dutch in Amsterdam
were like, "How come we can't get work like the 'Most Interesting
Man' on Heineken?"
Then: Euro RSCG, Planning Director/Group
Planning Director, 2006-2009
Now: Figliulo & Partners, partner and head of
When we originally tested this campaign there was great debate
about how old the MIM [Most Interesting Man] should be, with the
agency favoring the old guy. So we went into research with multiple
photos of the MIM as a 20-something, 40-something, 60-something.
The unanimous feedback was for the old guy who they felt would have
the most and best stories. The younger guy would be a "total
douchebag" who they wouldn't take advice from. And so we were able
to write a MIM casting spec for a distinguished old dude. Enter
Jonathan Goldsmith was in one of those ads for old person's home
rescue alert buttons. "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up," which
ran right at or just before the first airings of the MIM launch
When we were deciding on the tagline, then-brand team [members]
Willem van der Hoeven and Lisa Pfenning made the big bold decision
to walk away from the safer, more "marketing" tagline, "You have
only one life, make it dos." They picked the epic "Stay thirsty, my
Then-CMO Ken Kunze wanted to have the MIM holding a glass of
scotch in one of the scenes (to show he doesn't always drink Dos
Equis) but efforts were foiled by advertising standards.
Then: Euro RCSG, group account director/global
chief communications officer, 2005-2011
Now: SwellShark, president
Some of the best times in my career are linked to this campaign.
This was an incredible team -- agency and client. If you swapped
out any of the players, I'm not sure this campaign would ever have
come to life.
When we pitched the campaign, we imagined the MIM as an older
man -- the embodiment of a life well-lived. In fact, we used Prince
Rainier in the comps. We wanted to address any concerns about
casting a gray-haired man so we created additional comps for focus
groups with a few younger men in them. One of the faces was David
Turkanis, who was the AE on the business at the time. Not sure he
ever officially agreed to that but we all got a kick out of it.
Side note: The closer the MIM was to the age of our respondents,
the less appealing he was. He became threatening and they disliked
him. The MIM was meant to be aspirational and that only worked when
he was significantly older than the target, since that gave the
target a few decades to become just as interesting.
Karl, Brandon and Jeff are some of the best writers in the
business. Their lines were so clever and so well-crafted. I know
the campaign would have been a bust if not for the amazing
Karl and Brandon wrote some rules for the campaign for the
writers that would come after them. One of the biggest was that
what we claimed about the MIM's exploits had to be possible, if not
probable. That's why they always qualified some of the more
improbable claims with language like "It has been said
On the day of the campaign launch, Willem gathered the entire
team in a conference room in White Plains [N.Y.] and gave a speech
about teamwork that would rival anything Gene Hackman said in
"Hoosiers." Still gives me goosebumps.
Then: Dos Equis brand director, 2005-2008.
Now: William Grant & Sons Inc. category
marketing director, Sailor Jerry & Tullamore Dew
One thing that many people don't know is how hard it was to sell
this campaign into the Heineken senior management team and the Dos
Equis brand owners (at the time the brand was owned by FEMSA).
Aside from our direct team and my CMO at the time, there was not
much enthusiasm for the campaign. In fact, a few people wanted to
kill it. It was one of my toughest stakeholder management
endeavours. The business finally agreed to let us shoot the
campaign but we could not air it until we had LINK [copy testing]
results back. As you can guess, the campaign blew the category
norms out of the water, which allowed us to launch.
When our CMO was going to bat for this campaign he called Jeff
Kling and said "I'm putting my balls on the line for this campaign
and I want to know that your balls are on the table right next to
During year one of the campaign, we actually wrote a plan about
how to "evolve" (aka kill off) the MIM should the campaign lose its
The grizzly bear we used in the launch spot broke free during
the shoot and almost mauled one of the creative directors. That was
the day I swore I would never work with live animals in a shoot
Editor's note: Below is actual
footage of that brush with death, now posted on YouTube and
verified by one of the original team members.
Then: Heineken USA, chief marketing officer,
Now: Managing Partner, Smartfish
When I arrived on the scene and the campaign was still in test
markets, there was still resistance on taking the campaign
national. CCM was still the brand owner in those days and they were
very protective of the brand and the trademark. We actually had to
convince [them] that the campaign would work at the national level
and would succeed. In 2009, the campaign went across the U.S. for
the first time and has stayed that way ever since.
Before we broke the campaign national in 2009, we established
the "MIM Commandments" -- a series of rules designed to keep the
campaign fresh and not wearing it out too soon. As still a small
brand at the time, we could not afford having to create something
new, we wanted to make sure the campaign had a long run. I can't
reveal all of them, but I think the biggest takeaway was to avoid
the "jump the shark" moment. No late-night talk shows, no movie
cameos, etc. Not too much later Old Spice launched their "Man Your
Man Could Smell Like" campaign and broke almost all of the rules.
The campaign was great, but certainly seemed to wear out a lot
faster than "MIM" did.
One of the more amusing things was the annual approval process.
One year we had a line in one of the spots that was one of my
all-time favorites that said "Sharks have a week dedicated to him".
A no-brainer, right? Well when you fly down to Monterrey, Mexico,
to present the spots and the senior CCM executives all look at each
other after the ad plays, you then have to spend a few minutes
explaining the cultural phenomenon of Shark Week. Another awkward
moment was after Heineken purchased the brand, we flew to Amsterdam
in 2010 to present the new work. We had a spot that year called
"Manscaping," suffice to say it was not my proudest moment as a
marketer to have to explain what manscaping was to the Heineken
Then: Dos Equis, senior brand director,
Now: SwellShark, managing director
One of the secrets to the brand's success was a magnificent
client-and-agency partnership. Our agencies were a valued extension
of the marketing team who had an equal (and at times a deciding)
vote on important decisions and who acted as one team when
evaluating and executing ideas in the best possible way regardless
of their origin.