The year was 1971. As our first fully televised war aired nightly in living rooms across the country, an anti-establishment generation was emerging. Peace and love was their rallying cry and tie-dyed t-shirts, frayed jeans and peace signs heralded their collective cause. Bras were burned. Hair grew long and unruly. Music became really loud with politically charged lyrics. The younger generation turned on and tuned out, leaving advertisers scrambling to reach a demographic that wholly rejected corporate America.
It was in this turbulent time that the single most iconic commercial of the era was created: a broad, bucolic hilltop, filled with hundreds of young people of all ethnicities gathered to sing about love, peace and harmony – and to share a Coke. It was beautiful and real and, in 60 seconds, it cemented Coke as the beverage of the younger generation.
As a testament to its enduring power, in 2015, Matthew Weiner brought the spot back to life for his brilliant Mad Men series finale. In the final minutes, Don Draper, sitting on a hillside, pretending to be deep in meditation, creates the Coke commercial. For those of us who religiously watched every episode, Weiner’s swan song was pure poetry.
The year is 2017. Politics, sexual identity, race relations, climate change and women’s rights have all become lightning rods for a divisive world. Opposing sides adamantly refusing to consider the other’s validity have created a collective stalemate. An unorthodox hypothesis becomes a brilliant social experiment and ultimately a groundbreaking ad campaign. What if two strangers, each on opposing sides of an issue, got to know each other over a beer? Could that level of intimacy affect change?
And so, “Worlds Apart” is born. Two people, introduced for the first time, are given a box with instructions. As they build what will become stools, they talk. As they then construct what will ultimately become a bar, they talk. Finally, as they sit at the bar on their stools, no longer strangers, and relax over a bottle of Heineken, they talk some more. And even laugh.
There was no guarantee that any of these experiments would accomplish anything. But they did. And people noticed. As of this blog post, over 12 million of them. Bravo, Heineken!