Heineken agrees Google tie-up

01 July 2011

AMSTERDAM: Heineken, the brewer, has signed an international advertising deal with Google, the online giant, argued to represent a unique step for both companies.

Under the terms of the agreement, Heineken - which sells 200 beers and ciders worldwide - has pledged to spend a minimum amount over Google's portfolio of properties.

This alliance covers 20 markets around the world, and includes YouTube and mobile advertising, and marks the first such tie-up Google has made with a major brand.

"We will work with Heineken on providing incremental reach on target audiences and compare these across different media types," Henrique de Castro, Google's vice present, global media and platforms, told the Financial Times.

"We expect innovative brands like Heineken to take the opportunity to lever partnerships with us to build their capability and innovate."

However, de Castro also reported this move did not constitute an encroachment onto the territory usually occupied by advertising agencies.

"[Google] knows their media better than anyone else [and] have access to an immense source of information," he said.

"I don't think any traditional advertising agency will know about Google's business as well as Google knows about its business. The expertise they bring is unique."

Thomas Singlehurst, a media analyst at financial services provider Citigroup, suggested the rising importance of technology companies was starting to exert an impact.

"This immediately raises the spectre of disintermediation, which until now has been seen as ... a concept to be concerned about rather than a reality. This looks very real," he said.

More specifically, he predicted that if agencies excel in areas like data aggregation, they are likely to remain a fixture.

"In as far as agencies can provide service, there is still arguably a place for them," he said.

For its part in the deal with Google, Heineken is to receive data, discounts and consulting advice from Google.

"We feel a partnership with such outfits is a competitive advantage," Alexis Nasard, Heineken's chief commercial officer.

"This is a first attempt in a journey of collaborating with key sources of knowledge in a field that is changing quickly."

Heineken spends €2.1bn per a year on marketing, with new media taking a 4% share of this total.

It recently unveiled a campaign, "Man of the World", which ran in 30 nations and made considerable use of Facebook and YouTube.

"As our target consumer is increasingly engaging with media digitally, we are breaking away from traditional beer advertising to reach them where they are - online," said Nasard.

"Thinking digitally is no longer an afterthought; it is a component that needs to be fully integrated into the campaign from the very beginning."

The series of executions featuring in this effort are targeted at 21-34 year old males, and based around themes of common applicability to different countries.

Among the plotlines are making a dramatic entrance to a party or being on a date, with each ad backed by striking music, and boasting strong production values.

Overall, the aim is to demonstrate characteristics such as "confidence", "resourcefulness" and an "ability to navigate any social situation", Nasard added.

Data sourced from Financial Times/Forbes; additional content by Warc staff