Brand Experience and Activation > Touchpoints & Technology




Shortlisted Cannes Lions
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Why is this work relevant for Brand Experience & Activation?

Heineken has always supported the bars with actions rather than just words. So, when the bars were affected by the anti-vaxxers boycott, it didn't hesitate for a second to get to work to find a way to counteract this attack.By geolocating the most affected bars and using proximity social and digital placement to expose them, Boycott Ads managed to raise awareness of both the bar's problem and the support activation, thus increasing brand affinity.It also achieved commercial success by directing consumers to the affected bars, what increased the bars’profits and eventually made them go back to their natural ranking positions


The on-trade is one of Heineken’s biggest partners, but after the reopening, it faced a problem almost as tough as the lockdown: Anti-vaxxers tried to boycott those which asked for the vaccine pass by posting negative reviews on platforms, such as Yelp or Tripadvisor. Being at the top of the ranking of these platforms means more profit for the bars, so what if we use the negative reviews to give them back the lost visibility and attract people to the bars?

Describe the creative idea

Boycott Ads turned anti-vaxxers bad reviews into geolocalized ads for safe bars. Because if they were boycotted by anti-vaxxer, it made sense to think they were safe place to socialize. So, Heineken tracked the online ratings after the Vaccine Pass introduction, geolocalized the most boycotted bars and exposed them in their own ads, to give them back the visibility they had lost and drive traffic directly to the bar.

Describe the strategy

After two years, bars were open again. It seemed that they were finally starting to recover from the economic blow received during the lockdown, when the anti-vaxxers boycott bursted in.

Although it may seem insignificant, 1 star decrease in the ranking means a loss of up to 10% of revenue. Because the loss of stars on review platforms leads to a drop in ranking. A lower ranking means a loss of visibility, which ultimately translates into a loss of profit.

This antivaccine boycott did not only affect the on-trade. As a partner, Heineken was also eventually affected. So, it was time to react.

By sharing its media space, Heineken not only advertised itself at well as the bars that needed it most, but also publicly reinforced its commitment to one of its major partners.

Describe the execution

Heineken leveraged the wide visibility of its media space to counter the effects of the anti-vaccine boycott, while turning bad reviews into ads for safe bars, while usings proximity social and digital placement to expose them. These ads were also geo-localized to drive traffic directly to the bar, thus providing tactical cover across cities such as Argentina - Buenos Aires, Rosario, Córdoba, Mar del Plata, Corrientes, Neuquén, Brasil - Rio de Janeiro. Manaos, Salvador de Bahia, Fortaleza, Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Recife, Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, São Paulo.

Each bar received a bespoke ad out of the worst review it had received by the anti-vaxxers and was displayed through different media, both online and offline. These unusual messages engaged consumers, who were eventually reassured that those bars were following the rules, so they were safe places to socialize.

List the results

Conceived as a sustainable initiative that would maximise a media investment at such a delicate time, Boycott Ads ended up generating a solidarity movement among consumers, who through visiting the bars and leaving positive reviews, helped bars to return to the position they deserved.

A media budget of USD 800,000 was shared directly with the affected bars. The investment generated a lot of media and PR attention, namely 165 million impressions. And most importantly of all, Boycott Ads contributed to 92% of the bars involved regaining their previous ranking position.

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