Beer battle of bad taste: Carlsberg out shocks Heineken


- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Brand

'Pretend' fight in still from Carlsberg's new shock video
'Pretend' fight in still from Carlsberg's new shock video
Carlsberg UK has bent the bad taste envelope further still with an 'edgy' new online video that sees the drink’s fans phone their friends in the early hours and persuade them to visit a gambling den staffed by sinister characters or ‘actors’ to pay off their debts.

The advert raises questions as to whether big beverage firms are crossing ethical red lines by placing people in distressing situations for the sake of ‘fun’.

As journalist Todd Wasserman, writing about Carlsberg’s advert (which you can watch here​) in Mashable puts it: It's the latest thing in advertising: Sadistically put ordinary people through a stressful situation and then reveal that it was all a joke and bask in the relief.”

'Increased engagement with Carlsberg'

Presented with these comments, Carlsberg UK spokeswoman Joanna Dring told "No brand should exploit consumers and at Carlsberg, we went to great lengths to ensure that people were not placed under duress. In fact, this very point was discussed numerous times. 

"What this piece of communication does though, is drive conversations around what groups of friends talk about in the bar: 'What would you do for me?' and in turn, increase their engagement with Carlsberg," she added.

"If brands are going to connect with consumers, then they need to really understand what friendships are all about and communicate on their terms."

The Carlsberg advert sees the beer brand challenge fans to "puts friends to the test"​ by calling them in the middle of the night and telling them they need money to pay off poker debts.

Backstreet gambling den pushes limits…

Arriving at what seems to be (and it does look realistic) dodgy backstreet gambling den (that looks like a set from Sand Pebbles ​starring Steve McQueen) they see, inter alia​, two Oriental men fighting, before delivering the cash to their supposedly stricken friend.

A curtain then falls down to reveal a crowd that cheers the Good Samaritan (who after the initial shock has worn off stands there with goofy grin) for his general excellence in the great mate stakes.

Carlsberg’s ad goes one step further than beer rival Heineken, whose video The Candidate​ stresses the fact that” “All job interviews are the same. Same standard questions. Same prepared answers.”

The message is clear. We at Heineken are so damned edgy that we don’t play by the rules; more to the point, the rules stifle us. So let’s break them in a fairly tasteless fashion for the sake of fun.

Hang on a minute – aren’t large corporations such as Heineken the reason why rites of passage like job interviews are so formulaic?

Anyway, cue ‘funny’ job interviews where Heineken sets out to find an ‘event and sponsorship’ intern from among 1734 applicants, under the legend of the “The First Job Interview You Can’t Prepare For”

Male candidates are led to the interview room by an interviewer who insists upon holding his hand, and are then asked, “if you liked it when we walked hand in hand?”

“It made me feel…comfortable,”​ says one lad, gauchely. “Oh? Interesting,” ​the interviewer says.

Heineken interviewer fakes collapse

So far so good, it’s kinda funny – and by funny, I mean, amusing in the same way that watching Frasier (which I never really liked) with the volume off in an airport departure lounge is funny – it kills a bit of time when there’s nothing else to do.

But then Heineken pulls out the shock stoppers with a ‘medical assistance’ test: the interviewer pretends to be ill and collapses on the floor (see still from video below) while the camera films the applicants’ various responses. Almost split my sides...


A final test sees the building fire alarm set off and the building evacuated, before a Heineken staff member (apparently trapped on the top floor) is encouraged to jump onto a canvas sheet held by a group of people, which one of the applicants (in a sudden flurry of enthusiasm) rushes to hold.

Apparently, the best three interviewees were voted for by the Heineken marketing community on an internet portal, which led to Guy Luchting securing a job with the brewer. You have to say that Guy deserves it. But did he deserve such treatment from Heineken? Comments below please!

Get a life? Apparently already have one. Find a sense of humor? That's a work in progress...

Heineken did not reply to a request for comment as we went to press, but later admitted (March 20) that The Candidate​ was an "unusual"​ multimedia offering​.

Related news


It's trendy

Posted by Vincent,

I partly agree with you Ben, but this is all marketing gimmick. The latest Pepsi Max is very good in the same fashion:

Report abuse

Get off your moral high horse

Posted by Tyler,

Get a sense of humour Ben. These ads are done to cut through the normal, boring everyday ads. Their own friends put them up to it, so its not as if they didn't know who they were winding up. Try having a laugh next time.

Report abuse