Earlier this month, Pepsi released a disastrous ad starring Kendall Jenner solving the policing problem with a Pepsi.
The tone-deaf Pepsi spot features a diverse crowd of protesters; Jenner is doing a photoshoot while she sees them. Though the protest is very vague, Jenner is so moved to join them. Thankfully the protest brought along a tub of Pepsi cans — Jenner saves the day by giving one to a police officer. Oddly enough the protesters like this, cheer, and unlike in the real world, the day is saved.
In the ad, part of Heineken’s #OpenYourWorld campaign, six random strangers are paired off by opposing beliefs. An alt-right misogynist is paired with a leftist feminist, a climate change denier is paired with an environmentalist and a transphobe is paired with a trans woman. But none of the people know their partner’s beliefs.
The pairs are put into a big, near-empty soundstage with debris all around. Each person is given instructions. First they need to put together a couple of Ikea stools. Then they chat a while, starting with some pre-written questions. A buzzer goes off, determining the next stage, and the two use Tetris-style pieces to build a bar. Once the bar’s done, they’re pointed to a cooler with bottles of Heineken inside.
Here’s where the ad gets interesting — a voice announces that the pair are to watch a film. They then project the pre-interviews on the wall — the interviews where they talk about their beliefs, and are told that they can stay, chat and have a beer, or walk away. All three pairs choose to stay together. The trans woman and (perhaps former?) transphobe even exchange phone numbers to talk later.
The ad is not just nuanced and ultimately sweet — it’s got some basis in psychology. The spot is based on the idea of contact theory, which basically says it’s harder to be intolerant to groups when you know people in that group. Or, in brief play form:
Bob: Arr! I hate gay people! Unrelatedly, here’s my friend Dave that I’ve known for ages!
Dave: I’m gay.
Bob: Dave’s gay? But he’s not bad! Perhaps I am all turned around on the issue! Gay people can be okay too!
Dave: Uh, thanks?
If we’ve got to have advertising, let’s make sure it’s more like this — helping society in addition to selling things.