The Auditorium event, as part of the “Are you still with us” campaign for Heineken was scheduled on the 21st October 2009, the same time as the Champions League soccor match (AotW, 2010). This event saw 1136 Italian football supporters in the form of boyfriends, employees and students all being swindled by certain authoritative figures within their lives in being convinced to sacrifice watching the biggest game of the year to attend a fake classical music concert organised by Heineken (Hess, 2012). After 15 minutes into the concert, it was revealed that the audience had been pranked, and were rewarded for their sacrifice by watching the match live on the screen within the concert theatre, courtesy of Heineken (Hess, 2012).
Elliott et al (2012) states that publicity stunts’ “effectiveness relies on its ability to take its target unawares – they don’t expect it, so they don’t filter it out”. Being an organised event which was unknown to most of the attendees, Heineken’s Auditorium event was effectively a publicity stunt.
One core aspect of Heineken’s campaign strategy was to “use communication to talk to a few, but be overheard by many” (WARC, 2011). This strategy was clearly successful, due to the targeted audience of the prank being a mere 1136 people, yet an estimated 16.5 million people were exposed to the campaign through various news channels, blogs, forums and social media (Hess, 2012), as well as 20 million views on the website created for the campaign (WARC, 2011). The event was intentionally broadcast live on SKY Sports (Hepburn, 2010), reaching a large viewer base, however, journalists were also among the Auditorium attendees swindled by their employers (Hess, 2012); which encouraged another channel of free press coverage for the event. The value of the free media for this event was valued at over €560k (WARC, 2011), indicating that the campaign’s success was communicated through many channels and media.
The objectives of the campaign were to maintain Heineken’s volume share; grow a greater sense of loyalty to the brand; and maintain the premium imagery of the brand (WARC, 2011). WARC (2011) reports that Heineken’s volume and value share both increased from a slowly declining rate due to the campaign. Through the campaign, Heineken created a unique brand experience which contributed to consumer perception, and positively influenced a certain degree of loyalty to the brand as seen in post campaign research indicating a 6.3% increase in consumers believing Heineken is “a brand one can trust.” (WARC, 2011) This research also found a 5.2% increase in consumers believing that Heineken is “a brand worth the price” (WARC, 2011), fulfilling the final objective of the campaign.
In retrospect, the Auditorium event as a publicity stunt was a major success for Heineken, as it not only effectively produced desirable outcomes from the campaign objectives, but it was also a bold and clever endeavour that broke through the clutter of advertising and attracted significant media coverage.
AotW. (2010). Heineken: Champions League Match vs Classical Concert (Real Madrid, AC Milan). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from Ads of the World: http://adsoftheworld.com/media/ambient/heineken_champions_league_match_vs_classical_co ncert_real_madrid_ac_milan
Elliott, G., Rundle-Thiele, S., & Waller, D. (2012). Marketing (2nd ed.). China: John Wiley & Sons.
Hepburn, A. (2010, March 15). Heineken: Guerrilla Marketing Event In Italy. Retrieved March 18, 2015, from Digital Buzz: http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/heineken-guerrilla-marketing-event-in-italy/
Hess, D. (2012, March 15). Heineken – UEFA Champions League – Real Madrid vs Milan [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqbI0sqNe8o
WARC. (2011). Heineken Italia: Are you still with us? Retrieved March 18, 2015, from WARC: http://www.warc.com.ezproxy.canberra.edu.au/Content/ContentViewer.aspx?MasterContentR ef=f3eba7de-0bb3-463d-992e-f835d678006d&q=Heineken+madrid&CID=A94437&PUB=CANNES