When Rikar Gil revealed that he really didn’t want to go anywhere cold, little did he know that was a direct provocation. The social Spaniard was auditioning for Heineken’s "Dropped" experience, an online reality show that’s part Survivor and part Jackass, designed to give real guys the chance to prove their legendary skills. Gil was hoping to be dropped on an island or in a jungle. Instead, he was ferried by helicopter to the desolate Alaskan wild.
While one could argue the act of stranding a sun-loving social butterfly in a barren winterscape is a refined act of schadenfreude, it embodies what Heineken and its agency Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam were aiming for with "Dropped": putting everyday men in situations far outside of their comfort zone to see what they’re really made of.
Where the men in Heineken’s "Legends" campaign have displayed preternatural skills of suaveness and resourcefulness--such as in “The Entrance,” “The Date,” “Crack the Case,” and even Dropped’s accompanying spot “Voyage,” where a man navigates a trip to India with velvet ease--this is the first time that real men have had a chance to test their wits as a man of the world.
“Heineken drinkers like to think of themselves as worldy men, accustomed to trying new things and stepping outside of their comfort zone,” says Heineken’s global communications director Sandrine Huijgen. “With 'Dropped,' it is the ultimate expression of being a worldy man--overcoming one’s inhibitions to seek new experiences.” Though judging by Gil’s pained expressions while suffering a blizzard, it’s likely the men weren’t quite aware of the extent of those new experiences.
The first installment of "Dropped" follows Gil over three online episodes, with three more to be released every three weeks. When he first arrives in Alaska, he encounters a ringing phone in a red phone box, where he finds a tux and a life preserver, naturally. After trekking through the snow on snowshoes, he’s saved by a local and is brought to a cabin for some food served on paper plates. It’s an awkward fish-out-of-water moment that Wieden+Kennedy Executive Creative Director Eric Quennoy says embodies the spirit of "Dropped." “Watching him sitting there uncomfortably in a tuxedo eating spaghetti off paper plates is a wonderful juxtaposition of two worlds colliding,” he says.
Quennoy’s partner Mark Bernath says locations and scenarios for each "Dropped" experience are unscripted and come from finding the outer reaches of each guy’s comfort zone. “This Spanish guy was a social butterfly from a warm culture so we decided to isolate him as much as possible, and when he did have some companions, they’re these rogue characters out in the wilderness,” he says. “If we’d found a guy who didn’t like people, maybe we’d put him out in the middle of a giant crowd to see what would happen. Part of being a man of the world is being able to adapt and being open to situations and being able to transform yourself when put in a situation you’re not used to.”
Over the course of its Legends campaign, Heineken has been consistent in creating companion digital experiences. But this one is by far the most ambitious extension yet.
“The activations we come up with are very much based on the idea we have in the first place, says Quennoy. "With 'Serenade,' it was about a man going out with a girl on a first date. Here it was about a guy arriving in India and making his way through a foreign land.” In coming up with the "Dropped" idea, he says they asked themselves the question, What’s the greatest version of the idea of being out of your comfort zone and using your skills and wits to get out of it?
There’s also an acknowledgement that Heineken’s Man of the World character is completely mythical. Seriously, no one could ever imagine life to be that awesome (and perfectly choreographed). Bernath says that experiences like this allow them to dramatize the core ad idea using real people. “You can relate to the guys in the commercials on a certain level, but on another level, they’re so awesome in 90 seconds you wonder if you can pull it all off. But most guys are legendary in their own right, so we’re trying to widen the embrace beyond whether you relate to the guy in the spot or not.”
“It’s about giving real people a real opportunity to prove the skills they have. It’s obviously a little more humble and real,” adds Quennoy.
By the end of his Alaskan adventure (which included falling in an icy river while stopping to relieve himself), Rikar Gil declared himself a changed man, and two more dudes have already been cast for upcoming adventures. Beyond that, Heineken is still offering one everyman a chance to become a legend. Casting is open for one more legendary traveler with an appetite for adventure to participate in their own "Dropped" episodes, which will air online this summer.
Watch the accompanying TV spot, "Voyage" directed by Fredrik Bond, here: