An ad can be good or bad. It’s subjective. But once one gets to be universally lauded—especially in comparison to something universally despised—it becomes ripe fruit for parody and critique. (Because we’re never allowed to love or hate something without being asked to think about it. #SAD.)
In this spirit, Nehemiah Markos and Jed R. Feiman, the pair behind comedy sketch duo Never Sad, have created a parody of Heineken’s “Worlds Apart,” compiled with what they’re calling “unused footage.”
The gimmick pulls on the string that’s always left hanging when watching a reality-style ad that’s a little too neat: How many times did you have to shoot this, and how did everyone else react?
“I would describe my political beliefs … as white supremacy,” a grinning Feiman begins, facing the camera in the style of the original Heineken spot, which interviewed people of disparate beliefs before throwing them unwittingly into a bar-building project together.
“I am … black,” Markos says in the next shot. “I like my women like I like my coffee: Tall, strong and dark.”
This’ll be awkward.
Flung together in a warehouse, they begin the arduous work of putting together chairs and a bar that are actually already put together.
“Let me help you,” Feiman says.
“I don’t need help!” Markos shrilly retorts, flipping a chair into standing position.
Once the bar’s “built,” the project advances to the bonding stage. Asked what they both have in common, Feiman facetiously spouts, “I would say that you’re also a nice, smart, young, blond, white man.”
“Right,” Markos mutters, then gamely replies, “you too could be a young black progressive!”
Lastly, they’re left with the Dreaded Choice—to sit and discuss their differences over a beer, or up and leave. This goes downhill fast—though oddly they do end up sitting and “discussing,” even if the beers never actually pop open.
The ad ends, “Open your wallet. We meant world.”
As much as we liked “Worlds Apart,” the parody distills the spot to its bare bones, stripping away the pathos and leaving only a ridiculously facile setup. It also illustrates what we all “know” deep inside, once we’ve resigned ourselves to blocking or unfriending family members and college acquaintances spouting unpalatable beliefs all over our feeds: Core beliefs, as The Oatmeal so nicely illustrated, don’t get overturned in the face of facts or pressure. Instead, we work harder to defend them.
Being better listeners, and opening ourselves up to other experiences, tends to erode this effect, but not as quickly and neatly as Heineken illustrated in “Worlds Apart.” It’s a process that can take years … and probably drinks that are a lot harder than beers.
Still, the message isn’t entirely abject. What “Heineken – Unused Footage – #WorldsApart” actually takes issue with is how readily a brand will take on and simplify complicated subjects in a crass effort to earn “affinity”—or, to put it bluntly, our hard-earned money.
This is part of what made everyone so angry with Pepsi. And while Heineken’s approach was more sensitive and palatable, it doesn’t change the message’s origins: It comes from a company that wants you to drink more of its beer.
At the end of the day, we’re ad people, and it’s in our interest to recognize brands that behave responsibly and seem to want to make the world better. Advertising underwrites a lot of cultural good (and bad), and it needs people who reinforce positive ideas amongst the thousands of messages we see every day.
But we’re also just people—who, like everyone else, are just trying to be happy or whatever. Parody is good social medicine. It reminds us of the stakes—both for brands and for us. It also reminds us that if, after many beers and sputtering arguments, we still can’t get people to just See the Light, that isn’t really any fault of ours. It’s a process, right?
Maybe try tea next time.